H2OLL, an innovative Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG) technology developed at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, has won the prestigious Water Europe Innovation Award for SMEs. The award was announced in June at the Water Innovation Europe 2021 Conference. Water Europe (WE) is a European technology platform for collaboration between research institutes, companies, and water utilities. The Water Europe platform was initiated by the European Commission in 2004, and now encompasses more than 200 commercial businesses, academic and research bodies, and water supply companies whose collective goal is to build a water-smart economy in Europe.
More than 10% of the world’s population, over 670 million people, presently have no access to clean drinking water, which significantly impacts numerous aspects of their lives, including health, education, and gender equality. H2OLL’s Atmospheric Moisture Harvesting (AMH) technology is capable of extracting moisture from the air even in arid and desert regions, and is highly relevant to many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including the rights of every person for clean water, good health, and well-being, climate action, quality education, and gender equality (in many places in the world, children – girls in particular – are required to provide water to the family at the expense of attending classes at school).
The H2OLL technology was developed by Professors David Broday and Eran Friedler from the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering and was patented by the Technion. The development team is headed by Mr. Ilan Katz (M.Sc.) as CTO, Mr. Oded Distel who leads the business development, and Dr. Khaled Gommed from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.
The Technion research team built a prototype at the Technion’s Environmental Technologies Yard, which has been producing potable water since the winter of 2019-2020 (i.e. throughout the COVID-19 pandemic) and serves as a proof of concept (POC; www.H2Oll.com). H2OLL is in route to becoming a company and to commercializing the technology, with Mr. Ilan Katz as its CEO and Mr. Oded Distel as VP for business development.
Technion Makes Dramatic Move: On October 1, 2021, Purchases of Disposables Will Be Discontinued
In less than three months, on October 1, 2021, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology will stop buying disposable utensils. The decision by Technion Executive Vice President & Director General Professor Boaz Golany came after a lengthy research study and a thorough review of the alternatives.
In 2019, the Technion bought more than 2.3 million disposable cups, almost one million disposable teaspoons, and hundreds of thousands of other single-use items. Disposable utensils currently account for approximately 9% of waste on campus, and the present move is intended to reduce the amount of waste and reduce associated expenses.
In parallel to the CEO’s decision, the Technion will be providing its faculties and units with information on relevant and more environmentally friendly alternatives. Until adequate alternatives are found, the decision excludes cafeterias and small events held in the faculties. It is important to note, however, that even in these cases, the Technion will encourage a shift to reusable plates, cups, and cutlery.
“This is a comprehensive move that encompasses the Technion as a whole, and its implications are far-reaching,” said Prof. Golany. “In the past few years, the Technion has shifted into high gear in all aspects touching upon sustainability. Two important milestones that preceded the present move are the approval of Technion’s Strategic Plan of 2016 and the Technion Comptroller’s Report of 2019, which led to important recommendations related to sustainability. Our handling of these issues integrates research, teachings, and practices, which means that we will be placing special emphasis on promoting additional science-based steps that have the potential to bring about dramatic positive change.”
The move is being led by the Technion’s Sustainability Hub under the academic guidance of Professor Daniel Orenstein, who has authored important research on the issue of sustainability at universities, and the Hub’s coordinator, Dr. Ronit Cohen Seffer.
“Our view of sustainability and material consumption is holistic, and encompasses all potential responses: reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Prof. Orenstein. “There is no doubt that recycling is important, but reuse and reduction are especially important goals because they prevent pollution already in the production phase.” The production phase of disposable utensils is accompanied by emissions of toxic substances and greenhouse gases, and the transportation of the goods is also the source of a great deal of pollution.
“Before making this decision, we studied every aspect of the alternative – the use of reusable utensils – and we recognize that in addition to discontinuing the use of disposables, we must provide instructions on the right way to reduce the environmental impact of the alternative, too,” added Prof. Orenstein. “It is important to place consumption habits in a much broader context, which is the attempt to minimize damage to the environment on all fronts: energy, waste, land pollution, water and air pollution, and others.”
Cooperation Between the DoralEnergyand 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: “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: “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: “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.
Technion Scientists Eliminate a Bottleneck on the Way to Sustainable Energy
There is much talk about green energy throughout the world. The Paris Agreement incentivizes switching to renewable energy sources, and indeed, green energy appears very attractive, with its promises of no pollution and no need to extract fossil fuels. The sun and the wind are there, and all we need do is harness them to produce electricity. On the face of it, those same factors should also make green energy cheaper to produce.
What then stands in the way of shifting our energy production to these sustainable sources? And why hasn’t the world already shifted to renewable energy?
One of the challenges of switching energy production to sun and wind is their irregularity: wind rises or dies down. The sun rises and sets, or it is obscured by clouds. At times, energy production using these sources is effective, but at other times, production falls while consumption does not. A power plant that only provides electricity during the daylight hours, for example, cannot answer a population’s needs. It follows that energy must be produced when it can be, and stored, to be released when it is needed. In essence, a solar power plant would need to charge big batteries during the day, to be used during the night. Batteries of such scale, however, are very expensive, both in initial costs and in maintenance.
To understand why batteries are so expensive requires a closer look at how they function. For commercial use, flow batteries are used. They differ from dry batteries (commonly used in home devices) and lemon batteries (familiar from school experiments) in that the two electrolytes (liquids with dissolved positively and negatively charged particles) are not static, but pumped through the system. A selective membrane separating the two liquids prevents self-discharging. The interacting chemicals on two counter electrodes produce the electric current.
The membrane, unfortunately, is the most expensive element of the battery stack. Its price accounts for up to 40% of the initial costs of the battery stack. Furthermore, the membrane requires maintenance, and must be replaced continually due to wear. The electrolytes, in contrast, can last 20 years or more. Reducing the price of the membrane, or else finding a way to eliminate it, would provide a significant boost to the cost-effectivity of sustainable energy.
This is exactly what Technion M.Sc. student Lihi Amit set out to achieve, under the supervision of Technion Faculty of Mechanical Engineering Professor Matthew Suss from The Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program, and working together with Danny Naar, Dr. Robert Gloukhovski, in collaboration with Dr. Gerardo Jose la O’ from Primus Power Inc. Their recent article in ChemSusChem (link) was featured on the journal’s cover.
The researchers’ approach was to entirely eliminate the membrane. If the two electrolytes could flow together without intermixing, in a similar way to how oil and water can share a container without mixing, and only interact with each other in a controlled manner to produce an electric current, the need for the membrane would be eliminated. The team constructed a flow battery using bromine and zinc – cheap and readily available materials — and used a non-propriety complexing agent. The complexing agent trapped the bromine in bubble-like droplets, producing an oil-and-water effect, and releasing only as much bromine as was necessary at any given moment for maintaining the electric current. In effect, the expensive membrane of the battery was replaced with the cheap and fluid membrane of each individual droplet.
The study proved the feasibility of this novel approach to flow batteries and characterized its performance – a necessary step on the way to commercial use. One can hope that in the future cheap membraneless flow batteries will permit the widespread use of sustainable but inconstant energy sources.
To Touch and to Smell – a Nature Experience that Creates Happiness
A study by three Technion researchers has revealed that simply spending time in nature isn’t enough: to be happy, we need to get really close to it, to touch it and smell it. And surprise: there’s no need to turn off your phone
During the first COVID-19-related lockdown, everyone baked sourdough bread. In the second lockdown, the trend was home gardening, and social media was flooded with a plethora of photos of pot plants and close-ups of colorful succulents. According to researchers, the change in trend can be explained by the fact that the second lockdown found Israelis in lower spirits that even carbs would find it hard to lift. The forced stay that kept entire families indoors turned even the brightest, most beautiful homes into traps that created a sense of being closed in, and their residents tried to mitigate its impacts with a little greenery on which they could feast their eyes and spirits.
Numerous research studies have supported this intuitive choice, demonstrating the importance of nature and green spaces to people’s emotional and physical wellbeing, but a new study has shown that “feasting one’s eyes on greenery” is merely the tip of the iceberg. In order to benefit emotional wellbeing, humans must get close up and physically touch natural elements. In a research study published in Conservation Biology, Technion researchers found that interaction with nature alone is not enough. In order for tangible benefits to be derived, they found it is important that planners design green spaces that positive and close interaction with nature. The effect of interaction of this kind occurs in two stages, In the first, “cues of close psychological distance,” such as smelling and touching natural elements, increase the state of nature relatedness. This state in turn intensifies the pleasure derived by participants.
The researchers, Professor Assaf Shwartz and Dr. Agathe Colléony of the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, and Dr. Liat Levontin of the William Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, explain that closeness to nature improves wellbeing more than passive exposure or simply looking at the green landscape. Based on a survey of 1,023 visitors at Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park, they found that the closer the interaction with nature (for example, interaction that included touching natural elements or smelling flowers), the more the positive affect of visitors was enhanced following the visit to the nature reserve, compared to other visitors who experienced nature from a greater distance (for example, by simply taking a walk).
“Our research has shown that people who have an emotional affinity for nature are generally happier and derive greater benefit from visits to green spaces or nature reserves,” explained Prof. Shwartz.
Following these findings, the researchers conducted an experiment among 303 Technion students. All participants spent half an hour outdoors on campus, with each assigned one of nine different cues-to-experience to perform while walking. These included smelling flowers, taking photographs of nature, touching natural elements, or turning off their phones. The findings showed that participants assigned cues of close psychological distance from nature (smelling and touching natural elements) indeed felt closer to nature and felt better after the walk than the control group (with no cues). Contrary to the prevailing opinion that it is important to experience nature undisturbed, participants who were asked to turn off their phones during the walk interacted less with nature, and reported both an increase in their negative feelings and a decrease in positive feelings after the walk was recorded. According to Dr. Levontin, “Turning off the phone may possibly cause people to think about it more and lead to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and does not enable significant interaction with nature.”
“People today are increasingly alienated from nature, and this has negative implications on their health and wellbeing and on the importance they attribute to the world of nature,” said Prof. Shwartz. “It’s important to plan green spaces that enable significant interactions with nature to improve our affinity to nature and emotional wellbeing.”
“I think we all felt it in the recent lockdowns,” added Dr. Levontin. “But it’s possible that as a result of our growing alienation from nature, planning green spaces is not enough to create a significant nature experience and contribute to quality of life. So thought must be given to how to encourage people to go outdoors and enhance their nature experience.”
“This is precisely where our research comes in,” Prof. Shwartz explained. “In the experiment, we demonstrated that with the help of minor cues, which we called “cues-to-experience,” people can be brought closer to nature. We also found that it is possible to enhance the nature experience among visitors, as well as its positive effect after the visit. Even smartphones can be used to create meaningful nature experiences for all of us in parks, gardens, and nature reserves. At the same time, it is important to make sure to also protect biodiversity and not to encourage interaction that is liable to be harmful to nature, such as picking flowers. Landscape architects and environmental planners need to think about solutions that will encourage the creation of interactions with nature, whose negative impact on biodiversity is minimal and positive impact is strong.”
The paper in Conservation Biology can be accessed here
H2PRO Wins International New Energy Challenge Competition Organized by Energy Giant Shell
Israeli start-up H2PRO was named “best company in the scale-up track” in the international New Energy Challenge competition, a prestigious event organized annually by Royal Dutch Shell. H2PRO was founded based on an innovative green energy technology invented at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology that produces hydrogen efficiently, inexpensively, and safely.
H2PRO was one of just five finalists in the 2020 competition. In addition to being the youngest company on the list, it was also the only one from Israel. H2PRO’s innovative technology heralds a new era of green hydrogen production by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrical power. Traditional electrolysis produces hydrogen and oxygen simultaneously, which requires a membrane to separate them. The use of a membrane makes the system and the process significantly more expensive. Green hydrogen is an alternative fuel that can replace oil and natural gas in the long term. It plays a critical role in the reduction of polluting vehicle emissions, as well as in clean production of materials and chemicals, heating and storing renewable energy.
The new technology renders the membrane unnecessary, since the two gases are produced at different stages. The technology also increases energy efficiency by 20-25% compared to the alternatives; significantly improves the safety of the production process; reduces the cost of building the system to approximately one half; and increases the pressure of the produced hydrogen, thereby reducing the cost of downstream hydrogen compression.
H2PRO was founded in 2019 by Technion researchers Professor Gideon Grader (Faculty of Chemical Engineering), Professor Avner Rothschild, and Dr. Hen Dotan (Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering), in collaboration with the founders of Viber, which is headed by entrepreneur Talmon Marco.
The company received an exclusive license to commercialize the technology from T3, Technion’s technology transfer unit. To date, it has raised capital from Hyundai, Sumitomo, and Bazan, and from private investors and funds. The research that led to the establishment of H2PRO was supported by the Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program (GTEP), a donation by businessman and Technion supporter Ed Satell, the Adelis Foundation, Israel’s Ministry of Energy and the European Commission (the EU’s 2020 program). The research was conducted together with Dr. Avigail Landman, who was a Ph.D. student of both Prof. Rothschild and Prof. Grader.
When University of Waterloo President, Feridun Hamdullahpur, first met with Peretz Lavie, Technion’s immediate Past President, he quickly knew there was potential for a very special relationship between the two universities. Both are world class institutions known for academic and research excellence, innovation, and nation-building entrepreneurship. But what really inspired President Hamdullahpur was the opportunity to build a partnership based on Israel and Canada’s shared democratic values and a common devotion to solve the challenges of the 21st century.
The Technion Waterloo Research Alliance formally began in June 2011, with a focus on 3 areas of national and global importance: Quantum Computing, Water, and Nano-sciences. An initial round of seed funding was bolstered by a generous gift from Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman which enabled the alliance to expand in both scope and capacity. Since then, collaborative research teams have produced numerous joint publications, created new intellectual property and start-up initiatives, and partnered with industry, resulting in funding that has more than tripled beyond the initial investment.
Renewed funding from the Schwartz Reisman Foundation continues to support the alliance, and the partnership is attracting new philanthropic visionaries who recognize the incredible potential of this unique collaboration. Further research efforts have focused on Quantum Security, and partnership agreements are currently in progress to support research in AI & Medicine, Photonics, and Smart Cities.
Clearly President Hamdullahpur’s intuition was correct; nearly a decade since that fateful meeting with Peretz Lavie, the Technion Waterloo partnership continues to grow, yielding fruitful joint ventures and scientific advancements that further the global good.
H2Pro, a company founded by a research team from the Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program, is advancing Israel’s quest for a hydrogen-fueled future. The technology behind H2Pro was developed by Professor Gideon Grader, Professor Avner Rothschild, Dr. Hen Dotan, and Dr. Avigail Landman, who was a Ph.D. student while the research was being conducted.
H2Pro uses a water-splitting method called E-TAC (electrochemical thermally activated chemical) that draws hydrogen out of water by separating it from oxygen. The E-TAC water splitting system is 98.7% efficient.
June 5th is World Environment Day, a day to reflect on what we can do protect the health of our planet. This year in particular, amidst the pandemic, we all have a heightened awareness of the ways in which our earth and human health are interconnected and must safeguarded. Let’s all take this opportunity to become more environmentally responsible and mindful of the ways we can preserve nature today.
Here are a few ways Technion’s technological innovations encourage you to revisit your relationship with the world we live in.
ISRAEL AND USA JOIN FORCES FOR WATER-ENERGY TECH
Technion is part of a $21.4 million Israel-US consortium to develop water-energy technologies. More specifically, they are focusing on energy-efficient enhanced water supply, wastewater reuse and resource recovery, and energy water systems.
PhD student Avigail Landman and Masters student Rawan Halabi are saving the planet with a water-splitting system powered by solar energy. This is a huge step towards eliminating our use of fossil fuels and lowering the damaging effects they have on our environment.
Augury is an Industrial Internet of Things and AI company which makes machines more reliable and enhances human productivity to help reduce environmental impact. Also known as “machine whisperers”, Augury co-founders Gal Shaul and Saar Yoskowitz are Technion alumni.
German giant Daimler AG recently announced their collaboration with UBQ Materials to develop “clean” auto parts from converted unsorted household waste. UBQ Materials CTO Shaul Sheffer is a Technion alumnus.
MONITORING THE ENVIRONMENT WITH BIOLOGICAL COMPUTER
Ph.D. student Natalia Barger and Assistant Professor Ramez Daniel, head of the Synthetic Biology and Bioelectronics Lab at Technion, designed a biological computer to monitor different substances in the environment. Constructed within a bacterial cell, it can transmit signals and can even warn about hemorrhaging in the human body in the future.
Hydratech founder and CTO Dr. Dovik Barkay, is a Technion alumnus who started Hydrantech to create smart hydrant that saves water and millions of dollars. This smart hydrant alerts authorities of leaks, theft or malicious attempts to penetrate a water supply.
Technion graduate Tomer Tzach started CropX in 2014. The company is based on a hardware and software system that uses the power of big data, machine learning and cloud technology to boost agricultural output. Their revolutionary system protects the environment by helping farmers save on water, fertilizer and energy while conserving resources.
Technion alumnus Eylam Ran is the Founder and CEO of agri-tech startup, Edete Precision. They have developed an innovative two-stage artificial pollination technology which mimics the way honeybees collect and distribute pollen. Now bees can take a break!
Mekorot and Newsight Imaging collaborated to develop an inexpensive spectrometer which can improve monitoring the quality of water and considerably increase efficiency. Co-founder and CTO of Newsight Imaging, Eval Yatskan, is a Technion alumnus.
Technion researchers are always trying to find innovative solutions to help save the planet. One of these solutions includes a remote sensor that can be placed on drones or satellites to produce high-resolution data on soil contaminants and detect oil leaks.
Technion students, researchers and alumni are making big strides daily to help improve the state of the environment. If we all contribute by making one small change, together we can make a big impact. Be the difference the world needs. Support Technion Research helping make the world a better place.