Prof. Yossi Rosenwaks, head of the Renewable Energy Center, says he and his colleagues are honored to have won a position as a National Research Center, a new initiative by the Israeli government to promote Israel’s intellectual creativity and foster fruitful collaborations between leading research institutions throughout the country. The designation provides grant money to support the return of outstanding Israeli researchers from abroad, build state-of-the-art laboratories and work spaces, and fund research efforts.
"This is a very prestigious honor, and reflects the excellence of the research groups involved. It will enable us to do much more work and to progress much faster toward the goal of developing a power source for electric vehicles," says Prof. Emanuel Peled, who will be leading the center at TAU along with Prof. Dina Golodnitsky. "We are in search of a breakthrough in science and technology to achieve this."
Supporting new facilities and talent
The funding will help elevate the university’s Fuel Cell Laboratory to a world class facility, financing the purchase of state-of-the-art technological equipment and providing funds for scholarships and new faculty positions. The researchers’ aim is to develop new materials, novel components, and devices for fuses and batteries in Lithium Air and Sodium Air systems. Prof. Peled hopes to develop electric vehicles with a 310-mile range at an affordable cost, ultimately reducing Israel’s — and the world’s — dependence on foreign oil.
One of the major benefits of the designation is that it will help TAU attract the best minds in energy research. With this new funding, they will be able to provide support for Ph.D. and post-doctoral students and two new faculty positions — one in the Faculty of Engineering and another in the School of Chemistry. TAU hopes to recruit leading Israeli researchers who might otherwise have sought positions abroad.
"Naturally, TAU needs to have the ability to attract the top minds in the field of renewable energy. The most organic way to do that is to direct talented Ph.D. students to this field, and then have faculty positions available for them when they’re ready," says Prof. Rosenwaks.
In addition to the new funding, the university has pledged to establish President’s Scholarships to meet their goals. The scholarships will provide students with sufficient economic support through their studies, so they can devote their time to research and to becoming leaders in the field, Prof. Rosenwaks adds.
A home for research excellence
Beyond the research group that is part of the designation, the Renewable Energy Center is home to a number of outstanding research groups that are working towards ending dependence on fossil fuels, Prof. Rosenwaks says. "TAU and the Renewable Energy Center bring together the world’s leaders in renewable energy research, supplying the laboratories and equipment necessary for scientific and technological breakthroughs," he says. "It’s an exemplary model of interdisciplinary co-operation."
The Center promotes advanced research in renewable energy based in a variety of sources, including solar power, wind energy, and biomass, along with the technologies for storing and managing the energy. Some of the leading fields of research at TAU include nano antennas to revolutionize solar energy, optimized electricity grids, and energy harvested through photosynthesis. In another highlight for the Center this year, faculty member Prof. Nathan Nelson, a world-renowend biologist, was awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) grant for his research on photosynthetic hydrogen production.