Science And Tech Briefs
Wed, 08/06/2008
Staff Writer
Alternative Fuels Sought   The Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv, founded in 1970 to provide training in Israel’s growing number of commercial industries, has founded the Ben S. Marcus Research and Development Center for Clean Energy Sources. In announcing the center, the school said it hoped to become a major player in the field of alternative clean energy sources in general and solar energy in particular. It plans to initially emphasize research on solar cells and use the existing facilities at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.   Tel Aviv University has announced plans to create a new “Supercenter” to develop renewable energies. It plans to conduct research into solar energy applications, wind energy, biofuels and energy storage. The proposed center “will be much more than a hatchery for new clean technology,” according to professor Abraham Kribus, an engineer and solar energy expert. “It will be a multidisciplinary powerhouse including all the non-technological aspects, such as economics, law and public policy, for making clean technology a reality in Israel and beyond.”   Exxon Mobil Corp. is partnering with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, QuestAir Technologies and Plug Power Inc. to commercialize a system that converts liquid fuel such as gasoline into hydrogen onboard a vehicle for its use in a fuel cell. Although much work remains to be done, ExxonMobil researchers said the system has the potential to be up to 80 percent more fuel efficient than today’s internal combustion engine and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 45 percent.   Over the past year researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have been seeking to develop a diesel fuel based on plant and animal fat, while others are striving to produce oil from seaweed. These so-called “green” fuels would be a substitute for oil. To date, researchers have succeeded in removing oxygen from the oils of plants and creating a fuel that is similar to diesel fuel only cleaner. But there has been no success in raising seaweed, and experts believe many difficulties remain to be resolved before a true “green” fuel is developed.   New Academic Degrees   A master’s degree in science education will be offered by the Weizmann Institute of Science to outstanding Israeli high school and middle school science and math teachers. The curriculum will include studies aimed at broadening and deepening scientific knowledge, meetings with scientists working at the cutting edge of scientific research and practice in applying innovative approaches to teaching. Classes will be held two days a week for the first two years and one day a week in the third year so that teachers may continue their normal teaching duties.   Touro College has introduced a new program leading to a master of science in Information Systems, with database systems and data communications concentration options. The classes are to be held at the school’s Manhattan and Brooklyn campuses.     Space Debris Danger   Saying that the danger from space debris imperils astronauts and satellites, Tel Aviv University researcher Noam Eliaz is experimenting with new material to protect the surfaces of spacecraft. One of the materials being explored is a hybrid nano-material.   New Types Of Crops   The threat of global warming and the associated fluctuations in weather conditions and precipitation is encouraging Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers to develop crops that thrive in drought, saltwater and temperature extremes. Menachem Moshelion and Ronny Wallach have developed a method for determining a plant’s behavior under stress — even at an early stage. It replaces large-scale, qualitative screening with a faster, smaller method.