Do All of Us Understand Coronavirus News Coverage?

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Do All of Us Understand Coronavirus News Coverage?
Attitudes towards math more important than school math attainment for public understanding of quantitative COVID-19 data

Being afraid of math prevents people from engaging with it when they need it – even if they learned it at school, a new study claims

Since COVID-19 emerged as a global crisis, the news has been dominated by graphs and terms like “R numbers” and “exponential growth,” referring to the rate of spread of the disease. To what extent does the average adult understand the quantitative information appearing in the news? The results of a new study paint a gloomy picture: When asked about “math in the news” items presented to them, even people who had taken advanced mathematics classes in high school did not typically figure everything out, but obtained only an average “grade” of 72/100. But these advanced learners make up a small minority of high school graduates. Those who took only the mandatory level of high school math – as over 50% of high school graduates with official Israeli matriculation certificates tend to do – correctly interpreted much fewer items on average (54/100).

Prof. Einat Heyd-Metzuyanim

Results were even more troubling for participants who had not passed all the examinations required for the official state certificate. Participants in this group obtained an average “grade” of 44/100 – suggesting they didn’t understand over half of the items in the questionnaire. This latter group represents about 45% of the total cohort of 17-year-olds in Israel in recent years. These findings raise concern about the relevance of school mathematics to the real-life needs of most learners and call attention to the importance of providing all learners with mathematics literacy.

Dr. Aviv J. Sharon

The findings emerged from a new study on mathematical media literacy among a representative sample of 439 Israeli adults. The study was conducted by a team of researchers at the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology during the first wave of COVID-19 cases in Israel (March-April 2020).

The researchers were surprised to find a factor that appears to be even more strongly associated with the participants’ understanding of mathematical information in the news than the level of math they had taken at school: the participants’ self-perceptions as being “good at math” and the extent they find mathematics useful and interesting. This finding suggests that being afraid of math prevents people from engaging with it when they need it – even if they had learned it at school.

Prof. Ayelet Baram-Tsabari

“These results seem to show that school mathematics, especially in its high levels, may prepare adults to understand critical information important for their well-being, such as at a time of global pandemic. However, they also indicate that negative attitudes towards math may significantly hinder adults’ engagement with such information,” said the study’s lead author, Prof. Einat Heyd-Metzuyanim. “Our findings should trigger some soul-searching in the mathematics education field,” she added. “After all, the goal of learning mathematics, for most of the public, is to be able to deal with mathematical information in their daily lives. We should therefore make sure that high-school graduates leave school with both the cognitive tools for processing mathematical information around them, and the attitudes and dispositions that would allow them to do so.”

Click here for the paper in Educational Studies in Mathematics

 

Users Prefer the Warmth of an AI System Over Its Competence

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Users Prefer the Warmth of an AI System Over Its Competence

Study by three Technion researchers has revealed that AI systems’ competence isn’t enough: For users to choose a system, it needs to have warmth.

Spotify or Apple Music? Waze or Google Maps? Alexa or Siri? Consumers choose between artificial intelligence (AI)-based systems every day. How exactly do they choose which systems to use? Considering the amount of money and efforts spent on AI performance enhancement, one might expect competence and capability to drive users’ choices. Instead, a recent study conducted by researchers from the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology shows that the “warmth” of a system plays a pivotal role in predicting consumers’ choice between AI systems.

New research findings from a study featuring more than 1,600 participants, recently published in the Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, offer some insight into the psychology of potential users. The researchers, Zohar Gilad, Prof. Ofra Amir, and Prof. Liat Levontin from the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management at the Technion, examined the effects of users’ perception of AI systems’ warmth, that is, the systems’ perceived intent (good or ill), and AI systems’ competence, that is, the systems’ perceived ability to act on those intentions, on the choices they made.

Zohar Gilad

Most of the research done to date regarding warmth perceptions of AI-based systems addressed systems with a virtual or physical

presence, such as virtual agents and robots. The current study, though, focused on “faceless” AI systems, with little or no social presence, such as recommender systems, search engines, and navigation apps. For these types of AI systems, the researchers defined warmth as the primary beneficiary of the system. For example, a navigation system can prioritize collecting data about new routes (benefitting the system) over presenting the best-known route, or vice versa.

Prof. Liat Levontin

The researchers found that the system’s warmth was important to potential users, even more than its competence, and they favored a highly warm system over a highly competent system. This preference for warmth persisted even when the highly warm system was overtly deficient in its competence. For example, when asked to choose between two AI systems that recommend car insurance plans, most participants favored a system with low-competence (“using an algorithm trained on data from 1,000 car insurance plans”) and high-warmth (“developed to help people like them”), over a system with high-competence (“using a state-of-the-art artificial neural network algorithm trained on data from 1,000,000 car insurance plans”) and low-warmth (“developed to help insurance agents make better offers”). That is, consumers were willing to sacrifice competence for higher warmth.

Prof. Ofra Amir

These findings are similar to what is known of human interactions: warmth considerations are often more important than competence considerations when judging fellow humans. In other words, people use similar basic social rules to evaluate AI systems and people, even when assessing AI systems without overt human characteristics. Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that AI system designers consider and communicate the system’s warmth to its potential users.

Technion Scientists Develop a Tuberculosis-Diagnosing Sticker Patch

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Technion Scientists Develop a Tuberculosis-Diagnosing Sticker Patch

Delayed diagnosis is one of the more significant challenges to treating the deadly disease, which is prevalent in developing countries

Skin Adhesive Sensors for Tuberculosis Detection

Technion scientists have demonstrated a novel means of diagnosing tuberculosis by means of a sticker patch that catches compounds released by the skin. Using an artificial intelligence (AI) analysis of these compounds, the scientists were able to provide a quick, non-invasive diagnosis. The research was published in Advanced Science. In future implementations, the group plans to integrate the sensors into the patch and use a smartphone to read its results.

Skin Adhesive Sensors for Tuberculosis Detection

Tuberculosis, colloquially known as “consumption,” is prevalent in the developing world, with 95% of cases occurring there. In 2019, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis, and 1.4 million died of the disease. About one-third of the world population is estimated to be infected by tuberculosis bacteria. Since 1993, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines tuberculosis as a “global health emergency.” Effective treatment for tuberculosis is available, but diagnosis remains a roadblock, with around 3 million cases missed annually.

Early symptoms of tuberculosis are non-specific, complicating diagnosis. What makes matters worse is that currently existing diagnosis methods are slow, and at times too expensive or complex for resource-limited settings. For example, a sputum smear ($2.60 to $10.50 per examination) is too expensive in a location where people live on $1/day, while a mycobacterial culture test takes 4–8 weeks and at least three visits by the patient to finalize the diagnosis and begin treatment.

Professor Hossam Haick

WHO regards a fast, cheap, and efficient tuberculosis test as crucial to fighting the disease. And it is this need that the team of Professor Hossam Haick from the Wolfson Department of Chemical Engineering at the Technion address in their ground-breaking study. Led by Dr. Rotem Vishinkin, the group created a sticker patch to be applied on the patient’s arm. Containing a pouch of absorbing material, the patch collected compounds released through the skin. These provided the sought-after diagnostic tool.

Dr. Rotem Vishinkin

A device based on this proof-of-concept study, called A-patch, is already undergoing clinical trials. Dr. Vishinkin, the project’s scientific leader, explained, “our initial studies, done on a large number of subjects in India and in South Africa showed high effectiveness in diagnosing tuberculosis, with over 90% sensitivity and over 70% specificity. We showed that tuberculosis can be diagnosed through the compounds released by the skin. Our current challenge is minimizing the size of the sensor array and fitting it into the sticker patch.”

The platform the group is developing is cheap, fast and simple in its utilization, and requires no specially trained personnel. The group hopes the same methodology and the same platform could in the future be used to diagnose other diseases and conditions, making effective diagnosis accessible to remote areas in the world.

The clinical studies were conducted in the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, South Africa, the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, India, and the University of Latvia and Riga East University Hospital, Latvia. The study was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and generously assisted by Professor Gilla Kaplan. The continuation of the development under A-Patch project is supported by Horizon 2020. Dr. Vishinkin thanks the Ariane de Rothchild Fellowship for their support during her PhD studies.

Click here for the paper in Advanced Science

Click here for video demonstrating the research

How Israel’s leading technology institute drives so much innovation

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How Israel’s leading technology institute drives so much innovation

What’s the secret sauce of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel’s first university?

Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering at Technion University. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering at Technion University. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
 

In the century or so since its founding as Israel’s first university, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has acquired a reputation as a driving force of Israeli innovation.

 
Four Nobel Prize winners and several recipients of the prestigious Israel Prize are among its more than 100,000 graduates and faculty — not to mention creators of billion-dollar companies, life-saving medical technologies, and too many startups and innovative technologies to count.
 
So what’s the school’s secret sauce?
 
That’s the question that longtime Technion professor Shlomo Maital, senior research fellow at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research, recently set out to discover. For his project, he teamed with Israeli high-tech pioneer Rafi Nave, a Technion graduate who spent 21 years at Intel Israel leading development of the company’s math co-processors, managing its Haifa Design Center and working on the second-generation Pentium processor.
 
Together they spent much of the COVID year conducting interviews via Zoom with more than 100 notable Technion graduates asking them about their life journeys, innovations and how it all came about.
 
The result is a new book, “Aspiration, Inspiration, Perspiration: How Technion Faculty and Graduates Fuse Creativity and Technology to Change the World.” It may serve as a useful guide for anyone trying to figure out how to achieve success through a combination of out-of-the-box thinking and exceptional hard work and discipline.
 
“There are bookshelves full of learned tomes on innovators, innovation and creativity. I wrote several myself,” said Maital, who has worked with some 200 companies and over 1,000 managers and entrepreneurs, and is the former academic director of TIM-Technion Institute of Management. “But there are rather few that tell the innovators’ stories in their own words in response to standard, specific, focused questions.”
 
At noon ET Thursday, Maital will host a public webinar with Nave and David Perlmutter, former chief product officer and executive vice president of Intel, to talk about what they learned and to offer practical insights for those seeking to implement creative ideas.
 
Maital spoke to us recently about his project and some of his main takeaways. The following interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
 
You refer to the 100 innovators as having their “head in the clouds, feet on the ground.” What exactly does that mean, and how did these people find the intersection between science and industry?
 
“Head in the clouds” means zoom out. Actively seek wild ideas, far out of the box. Harvest them and cultivate them. “Feet on the ground” means zoom in. Sort the ideas, analyze them and find the ones that are feasible, capable of being implemented, even if that task is immensely difficult.
 
Technion provides students with state-of-the-art, enabling science and technology — this is part of “feet on the ground.” Our students, imbued with Israeli culture, then generate the wild ideas — “head in the clouds” — and fuse the two.
 
So many of your interviewees speak of the importance of following one’s passion and finding joy in work despite obstacles. Why is this an important message for today, especially at a time when many young people face economic uncertainties?
 
Resources fuel startups, but the underlying driving force is passion: the near-obsessive goal of entrepreneurs to make meaning — not money — to create real value and change the world. This is why so many Technion graduates leave high-paying jobs to launch startups, despite formidable odds and 24/7 work hours.
 
The Israeli culture of risk taking, resilience and lots of chutzpah is a recurring theme in your book.
 
We Israelis are perceived as rude, arrogant and impulsive. Maybe. But Israel has endured and prevailed because of the innate ability to improvise creatively and stubbornly. Israel has low “power distance” — the perceived gap between those with authority and those without. Our students tire of being told what to do by those they think are less smart than they are and go off to launch their own ideas.
 
Startup entrepreneurship is driven by national culture, and the cultures of nations differ widely. I believe that even when Technion graduates seek to build startups abroad, they still retain the cultural DNA they acquired as Israelis.
 
How can a university prepare student scientists and engineers to lead and manage companies and organizations after graduation?
 
I actually researched this question. In a web survey, we asked Technion graduates who had launched startups what they had learned at Technion that proved helpful in starting a business. About half mentioned experiential events — hackathons, three-day startups, Biz-Tech competitions. But half said they weren’t prepared. I wish Technion would offer a compulsory one-semester course on basic business tools: economics, accounting, marketing.
 
These are skills students need to become the leaders of tomorrow, and I think the Technion is realizing how important these skills are. Now, rather than competing with global industries, the Technion is bringing leading companies like software giant PTC to campus, so students and researchers alike can benefit from firsthand access to technology and information from some of the world’s most cutting-edge companies. 
 
Some of your interviewees emphasized the importance of diving deep into one’s own discipline, while others encouraged a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach. Which is better?
 
The future lies with interdisciplinary thinking. It is one of the 10 key future skills that employers mention. For example, Nobel laureate Arieh Warshel (a Technion graduate) combined chemistry, biology, computer science, and classical and quantum mechanics.
 
Technion is moving away from traditional disciplinary silos with joint degree programs. One of Technion’s hotbeds of interdisciplinary innovation is biomedical engineering, a faculty that integrates science and engineering for the advancement of medicine.
 
It’s important always to be mindful of the ethical and social responsibilities of their work, many interviewees said. Some also recommended studying the humanities even while focusing on science and technology. 
 
This is a sore point, alas. Studying physics, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry and physics at a world-class level in three or four years is really hard. And we do put our students’ feet to the fire. Historically this has left little time to study literature, history, philosophy or even ethics. But this is changing. The Technion is now working on ways to provide students with the necessary tools so that they can crystallize for themselves a broad perspective of society, ethics, environment and so forth. It would be a unique aspect of liberal arts, and an interface with science and engineering.
 
On the other hand, Technion graduates’ startups do focus on the major dilemmas facing Israel and the world and seek to resolve them. So there is heightened awareness of things like the climate crisis, hunger, poverty and inequality. And after army service and the customary tour-the-world trip afterward, our students enter their studies older and more mature and aware of global challenges.
 

Cooperation Between the Doral Energy and the Technion

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Cooperation Between the Doral Energy and the Technion

Doral Energy-Tech Ventures (Doral-Tech), Doral Energy Group’s innovation and investment arm, will invest in Technion projects in the fields of renewable energy, energy storage, and climate studies. Technion researchers will enjoy access to the Doral Group’s sites in Israel and around the world for the purpose of developing and promoting the technologies

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Doral have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for strategic cooperation. Under the MOU, both parties will promote research, development, and commercialization on a range of issues, and work towards identifying and realizing joint business opportunities – in response to global challenges in the fields of energy, climate, and the environment.

Doral Energy-Tech Ventures (Doral-Tech), the innovation and investment arm of Doral Energy Group, will invest in various technological projects, including renewable energy, energy storage, agro-solar (integration of agriculture and solar energy), hydrogen production, carbon capture, waste treatment, water, and environmental infrastructure, as well as supporting the Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program (GTEP).

As part of the collaboration, Doral-Tech will promote the Technion DRIVE Accelerator – the Technion’s accelerator program, while building a mechanism for joint investments and partnering with startups to join the track. In addition, the company will fund advanced applied research and receive initial exposure to invest in renewable energy technologies from the Technion Technology Transfer Unit (T3).

The researchers will have access to Doral’s testing facilities in order to advance selected projects and exposure to markets in Israel and abroad. As part of the agreement, Doral will award scholarships to Technion graduate students.

Roee Furman, CEO of Doral Energy-Tech Ventures

Roee Furman, CEO of Doral Energy-Tech Ventures:  “We are excited and proud of this strategic cooperation with the Technion. This is of commercial and national importance in the development and promotion of the local ecosystem of startups and innovation in the fields of renewable energy, climate, and environmental infrastructure. The Technion has world-renowned researchers, as well as some of the most advanced laboratory infrastructure in the world. Doral will strengthen academic-industrial ties and provide a platform for researchers to move from laboratory research to Doral’s testing sites and applications in diverse projects in Israel and around the world. This engagement with the Technion will provide Doral with additional and unique opportunities for entrepreneurship, locating and investing in breakthrough technologies, and strengthening its position as a pioneer and leader in its field.” 

Technion Vice President for Research Professor Koby Rubinstein

Technion Vice President for Research Professor Koby Rubinstein: “The Technion works in many ways to strengthen research ties with the industry, and with the energy sector in particular. We welcome the collaboration with Doral, which will lead to many important research and application achievements.”

 

 

Technion Executive Vice President and Director General Professor Boaz Golany

Technion Executive Vice President and Director General Professor Boaz Golany: “The agreement with Doral is, in our view, the first step in establishing a broader network of cooperation with energy companies and government bodies engaged in the field. The Technion has established, in large part thanks to generous donors such as the Grand Family, a unique research infrastructure for various energy projects, and now it strives to reach its full potential through collaborations with key players in this sector.

 

Dr. Ofer Neufeld, who recently completed his Ph.D. at the Technion, has been awarded a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship

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Dr. Ofer Neufeld, who recently completed his Ph.D. at the Technion, has been awarded a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship

Dr. Ofer Neufeld

Dr. Ofer Neufeld, who completed three consecutive degrees at the Technion and recently completed his doctoral research in the Faculty of Physics, has been informed that he is the recipient of a Schmidt Science Fellowship. The Schmidt Science Fellows program, which was founded by Wendy and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt to cultivate the next generation of science leaders, will fund Dr. Neufeld in his postdoctoral research following his dissertation at the Technion, a thesis that has already won him an Adams Academy Fellowship, a Jacobs Award and the Israel Physical Society Prize for Outstanding theoretical Ph.D. Students.

Dr. Neufeld grew up in Haifa and started out at the Technion studying for a dual B.Sc. in Physics and and Materials Science and Engineering. It was already then, while studying organic photovoltaic cells for renewable energy, that he became interested in research and theory.

After completing his dual degree B.Sc. studies, Dr. Neufeld began studying for his M.Sc. in the Grand Technion Energy Program. Under the supervision of Prof. Maytal Caspary Toroker, he researched theoretical methods for improving photoelectrochemical cells for the production of hydrogen fuel from solar energy. On completing his master’s degree summa cum laude, he proceeded to the doctoral program in the Technion Faculty of Physics. Under the supervision of Prof. Oren Cohen, he researched fundamental processes involved in light-matter interactions, specifically, interactions of strong laser fields with atoms and molecules.

Dr. Neufeld is currently pursuing his postdoctoral research at the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, under the supervision of Prof. Angel Rubio. The $100,000 Schmidt Science Fellows stipend will be used to support his postdoctoral research.

Dr. Neufeld is the second student from the Technion, and from all of Israel, to be awarded a Schmidt Science Fellowship, after Grisha Spektor of the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2019.

Gazing Together Into Space

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Gazing Together Into Space:

Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Israel Aerospace Industries to Collaborate on Student Project to Develop Nano Satellites

The Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Technion has signed a cooperation agreement with the Space Division at Israel Aerospace Industries to develop and launch a nano-satellite that will enter low-altitude orbit around the moon and collect data using a payload of scientific instruments. The student-performed project will start in the beginning of the next academic year, in October 2021. It is expected to continue until it reaches completion in a few years.

L-R: Niko Adamsky, Prof. Tal Shima , VP and GM of IAI’s Space Division

IAI’s Space Division will assist the project in several ways, including, providing space engineers to help define, characterize, and closely mentor the students’ mission. Participating students will also be provided with tours of IAI’s space laboratories and facilities where satellites undergo experiments in an environment simulating outer space. At the end of the process, the students will be partners in launching the nano-satellite.

The joint project is the culmination of a faculty-wide process striving to balance two fields: aeronautics and outer space. According to Faculty Dean Professor Tal Shima, “while in the past only about 10% of the faculty syllabus was dedicated to space, over the past few years there has been an effort to change this and reach a more equal balance between the two fields. To achieve this. we updated the faculty curriculum and we are currently in the midst of the process of hiring new staff members with expertise in outer space. Cooperation with IAI’s space facility will allow us to expose students to additional joint projects with IAI focused on outer space. This is a fascinating field where activity in Israel and the world is stepping up and I hope to see as many students as possible focusing on it.”

“The project will allow students to become partners in a project with the industry and help them reach the end of their studies prepared to be integrated into Israel’s developing space industry,” said Professor Gil Yudilevitch, who initiated and leads the cooperation on the faculty. On IAI’s side, the project will be headed by the faculty alumnus Niko Adamsky, who today serves as a space engineer in IAI’s Space Division.

Prof. Gil YudilevitchDean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering Prof. Tal Shima (right) with VP and GM of IAI’s Space Division, Shlomi Sudri

Shlomi Sudri, VP and GM of IAI’s Space Division said during the signing ceremony, “IAI is leading a process to strengthen cooperation with the Technion through a project for students in the field of nano-satellites. This will open a whole new world for them, a world that includes innovative system design. They will be able to gain experience in engineering a unique system in the field of space exploration. The dimension of space necessitates engineering and system capabilities with specialized knowledge. For the students, this is an opportunity to integrate into the field of space in Israel, to be exposed to the wide industry working on outer space, and to get a taste of the engineering and infrastructure capabilities that exist in IAI.”

The agreement was signed shortly after a delegation of senior IAI officials, headed by President and CEO of IAI Boaz Levy, who is an alumnus of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, visited the Technion and met with Technion President Professor Uri Sivan and the Deputy President of Research, Professor Kobi Rubinstein. IAI’s delegation also included Guy Bar Lev, Interim Director of the Systems, Missiles and Space Division, and VP and GM of IAI’s Space Division, Shlomi Sudri.

Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan said, “the connection between industry and academia is important and fruitful for both sides, and connecting with a significant and large entity such as IAI is an important step. The interface between academia and industry is changing fast and the Technion is investing great efforts in being established in Israel and internationally. We are working to promote close research cooperation and to turn the Technion into a hub for many diverse industries, a platform where industry and academia meet. We are quickly working to commercialize technologies that originated on campus. The past year has been a record one in establishing startup companies in the Technion. Another expression of the strengthening ties comes in establishing specialized routes for learning and vocational training for people in the industry who are interested in lifelong learning.”

IAI President and CEO Boaz Levy said “As an alumnus of the Technion, accompanying projects and different mentoring programs over the years, I am excited by the existing and future cooperation between IAI and the Technion. We must strengthen cooperation with the Technion, especially the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, which is unique to its kind in Israel, and which holds a leadership position among similar faculties worldwide. Increasing our cooperation with the Technion produces added value to both sides and will help us strengthen and integrate in creating groundbreaking, challenging, and leading technology in Israel and abroad. To this end, it is important we formulate together the image of the engineer we envision – an involved engineer with system-wide perspective and deep business understanding and research capabilities.”

 

Better Optics for Science and Industry

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Better Optics for Science and Industry

Technion scientists succeed in drastically simplifying the production of optical components used across industries

Technion scientists have dramatically improved and simplified the production of precise optical components by immersing them in liquid. The study, led by Ph.D. student Reut Orange-Kedem and Professor Yoav Shechtman from the Technion Faculty of Bioengineering, was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Reut Orange-Kedem

Precise optical components are necessary in many fields, including microscopy, telescopy, medical imaging, fiber optics, lasers, and more. In the field of bioengineering, they are crucial for 3D microscopy. However, their production is extremely challenging. The precision required is on the nanometric scale (one millionth of a millimeter). The manufacturing process is complex, requires high precision, and can only be done in a cleanroom – factors that make it costly.

The scientists developed a novel process of manufacturing these elements – a method that significantly simplifies the production, enabling optical components to be made using a regular 3D printer. This method makes optical components fast and cheap to create, and also allows one to increase the complexity of the elements produced. And all this at no cost in precision.

To achieve this, the scientists immersed the optical component in liquid: a mix of water and glycerol (a cheap substance widely used across industries, including as a food additive). Light moves at different speeds through different substances. For example, it slows down when passing through water or glass. This difference in speed is called the material’s refractive index. The refractive index of the liquid the scientists used is very close to that of their optical component.

The new optical system

Under those conditions, the optical component needs to be 1,000 times bigger in order to perform its function, which is just what the scientists wanted. Being larger, the component is now much easier to produce, and much less sensitive to manufacturing errors. Instead of a lengthy and complex process requiring a cleanroom, it can now be manufactured using a regular 3D printer. The simplicity of the process also allows for the production of more complex components that were near impossible using traditional methods. And the novel components are also tuneable, unlike their traditional predecessors, through manipulation of the glycerol concentration. Overall, this is an achievement in optics, which puts a better and cheaper tool into the hands of scientists and industries across multiple fields.

Professor Yoav Shechtman

Prof. Yoav Shechtman is a member of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute (RBNI), and the Lorry I. Lokey Interdisciplinary Center for Life Sciences & Engineering.

Reut Orange-Kedem

Reut Orange-Kedem is a Ph.D. student under his supervision. This study was supported by the ERC (Horizon 2020) grant, the Zuckerman Foundation, and the Israel Innovation Authority.

 

Click here for the paper in Nature Communications

6 Days Inspire 6 Decades of Support

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Nathan z”l and Anne Goldman z”l

The Goldman Family 

The dramatic events of the 6-day war in 1967 spurred the Goldman family’s deep commitment to supporting the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.  Recognizing that Israel was facing an existential threat, Nathan z”l and Anne Goldman z”l  swiftly joined community efforts to fundraise in support of the young Jewish State.  On the second night of war, a group of Toronto builders gathered at Temple Sinai to raise an unprecedented amount of funds for Israel as it was attacked by Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon.

As war broke out, Anne’s maternal first cousin, Meir Sherman, was set to graduate as an engineer from Technion, a point of deep pride for the family. Meir later became the head of airplane safety and maintenance for El Al.  It was through Meir’s training at the Technion, and the influence of Meir’s parents and other family in Israel, that Nat and Anne came to recognize the Technion’s vital role in the defense of Israel, inspiring a passionate connection between the Toronto based Goldman family and the Technion – a bond that has now spanned two generations.

Nat Goldman came to Canada from the Ukraine in 1925 at the age of 4.  He grew up in Toronto and on a family farm in Whitby, and attended the University of Toronto’s Agricultural College in Guelph, where he earned both a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Agricultural Science. However, due to the anti-Semitic discrimination of the late 1940’s, Nat was unable to find proper employment in his field, and instead worked with his father to develop a successful home building business. Nonetheless, Nat’s agricultural training further reinforced his belief in the Technion’s strategic importance in building the State of Israel.  

Over the years, Nat and Anne devoted extensive time and resources in support of the Technion; both served on the Technion Canada Board, which Nat was on for over 20 years, and together they established numerous teaching fellowships and other funds.  Nat was also a lifetime member of the International Board of Governors, and in 1992 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his inspiring achievements in career, community, and philanthropy. While receiving this honour at the Technion in Israel, Nat was thrilled to share the podium with Mikhail Gorbachev, who had come to accept the Technion’s Harvey Peace Prize for his role in reducing regional tensions, and for permitting Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel.

Currently, the 4 Goldman children: Shoshana, Cal, Jeffrey, and Sandy, continue to support the Technion through the Goldman Teaching Fellowship at the Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management.  They recently honoured Nathan on what would have been his 100th birthday (March 15th, 2021) with a special gift to the Technion.

Says eldest son, Cal Goldman: “Our father was highly accomplished, but always remained humble and grateful.  He was unwavering in his commitment to Israel and the Technion was his main vehicle for support.  He recognized the Technion’s unique position as a leading institute for technology and defence, as well as for agricultural science in Israel, and never took any of that for granted. He appreciated Technion’s drive for excellence, as this was something he embraced in his own life. We are proud to mark our father’s 100th birthday by continuing our parent’s legacy of support for the Technion.”

A Spatiotemporal Symphony of Light

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A Spatiotemporal Symphony of Light

In a Nano Optics Breakthrough, Technion Researchers Observe Sound-Light Pulses in 2D Materials for the first time

Professor Ido Kaminer

Haifa, Israel June 11, 2021 – Using an ultrafast transmission electron microscope, researchers from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have, for the first time, recorded the propagation of combined sound and light waves in atomically thin materials. The experiments were performed in the Robert and Ruth Magid Electron Beam Quantum Dynamics Laboratory headed by Professor Ido Kaminer, of the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical & Computer Engineering and the Solid State Institute.

Single-layer materials, alternatively known as 2D materials, are in themselves novel materials, solids consisting of a single layer of atoms. Graphene, the first 2D material discovered, was isolated for the first time in 2004, an achievement that garnered the 2010 Nobel Prize. Now, for the first time, Technion scientists show how pulses of light move inside these materials. Their findings, “Spatiotemporal Imaging of 2D Polariton Wavepacket Dynamics Using Free Electrons,” were published  in Science following great interest by many scientists.

Light moves through space at 300,000 km/s. Moving through water or through glass, it slows down by a fraction. But when moving through certain few-layers solids, light slows down almost a thousand-fold. This occurs because the light makes the atoms of these special materials vibrate to create sound waves (also called phonons), and these atomic sound waves create light when they vibrate. Thus, the pulse is actually a tightly bound combination of sound and light, called “phonon-polariton.” Lit up, the material “sings.”

The scientists shone pulses of light along the edge of a 2D material, producing in the material the hybrid sound-light waves. Not only were they able to record these waves, but they also found the pulses can spontaneously speed up and slow down. Surprisingly, the waves even split into two separate pulses, moving at different speeds.

The experiment was conducted using an ultrafast transmission electron microscope (UTEM). Contrary to optical microscopes and scanning electron microscopes, here particles pass through the sample and then are received by a detector. This process allowed the researchers to track the sound-light wave in unprecedented resolution, both in space and in time. The time resolution is 50 femtosecond – 50X10-15 seconds – the number of frames per second is similar to the number of seconds in a million years.

PhD student Yaniv Kurman

“The hybrid wave moves inside the material, so you cannot observe it using a regular optical microscope,” Kurman explained. “Most measurements of light in 2D materials are based on microscopy techniques that use needle-like objects that scan over the surface point-by-point, but every such needle-contact disturb the movement of the wave we try to image. In contrast, our new technique can image the motion of light without disturbing it. Our results could not have been achieved using existing methods. So, in addition to our scientific findings, we present a previously unseen measurement technique that will be relevant to many more scientific discoveries.”

Main authors, L-R: Yaniv Kurman, Raphael Dahan and Professor Ido Kaminer

This study was born in the height of the COVID-19 epidemic. In the months of lockdown, with the universities closed, Yaniv Kurman, a graduate student in Prof. Kaminer’s lab, sat at home and made the mathematical calculations predicting how light pulses should behave in 2D materials and how they could be measured. Meanwhile, Raphael Dahan, another student in the same lab, realized how to focus infrared pulses into the group’s electron microscope and made the necessary upgrades to accomplish that. Once the lockdown was over, the group was able to prove Kurman’s theory, and even reveal additional phenomena that they had not expected.

L-R: Yaniv Kurman and Professor Ido Kaminer

While this is a fundamental science study, the scientists expect it to have multiple research and industry applications. “We can use the system to study different physical phenomena that are not otherwise accessible,” said Prof. Kaminer. “We are planning experiments that will measure vortices of light, experiments in Chaos Theory, and simulations of phenomena that occur near black holes. Moreover, our findings may permit the production of atomically thin fiber optic “cables”, which could be placed within electrical circuits and transmit data without overheating the system – a task that is currently facing considerable challenges due to circuit minimization.” The team’s work initiates the research of light pulses inside a novel set of materials, broadens the capabilities of electron microscopes, and promotes the possibility of optical communication through atomically thin layers.

Illustration of a Sound-Light wave in 2D materials and its measurement using free electrons

“I was thrilled by these findings,” said Professor Harald Giessen, from the University of Stuttgart, who was not a part of this research. “This presents a real breakthrough in ultrafast nano-optics, and represents state of the art and the leading edge of the scientific frontier. The observation in real space and in real time is beautiful and has, to my knowledge, not been demonstrated before.”

Another prominent scientist not involved with the study, John Joannopoulos from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, added that, “The key in this accomplishment is in the clever design and development of an experimental system. This work by Ido Kaminer and his group and colleagues is a critical step forward. It is of great interest both scientifically and technologically, and is of critical importance to the field.”

Prof. Kaminer is also affiliated with the Helen Diller Quantum Center and the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute. The study was spearheaded by Ph.D. students Yaniv Kurman and Raphael Dahan. Other members of the research team were Dr. Kangpeng Wang, Michael Yannai, Yuval Adiv, and Ori Reinhardt. The research was based on an international collaboration with the groups of Prof. James Edgar (Kansas State University), of Prof. Mathieu Kociak (Université Paris Sud), and of Prof. Frank Koppens (ICFO, The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology).

Click here for the paper in Science

Click here for video demonstrating the research