News arrives from Israel’s Technion Institute that they have developed a stable catalyst that can split water at extravagantly low energy-levels – and haven’t ruled out being able to split water with energy levels obtainable from the sun.

In fact, the hope of rapid transformation in the field is one of the reasons that AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals and Gasunie New Energy have partnered in a project aiming at “large scale conversion of sustainable electricity into green hydrogen via the electrolysis of water.”

Intended for Delfzijl in the Netherlands, the installation would use a 20MW water electrolysis unit, the largest in Europe, to convert sustainably produced electricity into 3,000 tons of green hydrogen a year – enough to fuel 300 hydrogen buses. A final decision on the project is expected in 2019.

Why — and why now — is green hydrogen such a big, big deal?
Two reasons, really.

One, you’d solve the energy-storage problem of solar power, in a snap — you’d just split water to make hydrogen. (Don’t worry, when you use the hydrogen to, for example, power a car, the water re-forms out of the tailpipe. This isn’t a Water vs Fuel situation.)

Two, you’d have an affordable, biobased (hydrogen fuel) fuel you could make anywhere, in quantities exceeding the petroleum industry.

Scientists have not been able to crack the problem, in part because the catalyst that Nature evolved is complex, and has been described as the “the strongest biological oxidizing agent yet discovered”.

It comes down to controlling manganese, which is abundant and cheap, but the manganese catalysts yet developed never last and consume way too much energy.

Consequently, though Toyota has been working very hard on hydrogen vehicles, hydrogen as currently obtained via natural gas reforming is not green, nor competitively affordable. So, there might be a hundred hydrogen refueling stations in the US, about half of them in California.

In an article published in Nature Catalysis, Assistant Professor Galia Maayan of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology presents a molecular complex (also called an artificial molecular cluster) that dramatically improves the efficiency of water oxidation. It does so by biomimicry – a field of engineering inspired by nature (bio=life, mimetics=imitation). In this specific case, the inspiration comes from the process of photosynthesis in nature.

The molecular complex developed by Maayan is expected to change this situation. This cluster, which is actually a complex molecule called Mn12DH, has unique characteristics that are advantageous when splitting water.

Experiments conducted with this complex demonstrate that it produces a large quantity of electrons (electric current) and a significant amount of oxygen and hydrogen, despite a relatively low energetic investment. No less important, it is stable – meaning that it is not easily demolished, like other Mn-based catalysts.

An improved plasma thruster using Israeli technology can steer satellites out of harm’s way while using less power than chemical forms of propulsion.

Space is getting crowded.

In addition to the thousands of satellites already orbiting Earth, about 14,000 new satellites are expected to be launched by the end of the decade.

That translates into about 9,000 tons of space debris, says Igal Kronhaus, Technion professor-turned-space-tech startup entrepreneur.

It’s gotten so bad that the United States issued new regulations in 2022 that “won’t allow the launch of a satellite unless it has a convincing capability to move out of the way after five years from the end of the mission,” Kronhaus says.

Kronhaus started his company, Space Plasmatics, in 2021 to address the space junk problem while also improving satellite propulsion in general.

Space Plasmatics is developing plasma thrusters designed to navigate satellites to a different orbit or even back to Earth, using ionized gas in an electric field rather than the traditional propulsion method of chemical reactions.

The thrusters get their power from solar cells that are already mounted on the satellites. Solar-powered electric propulsion is now used in almost every satellite. High-powered versions could even propel manned spacecraft for missions to the Moon and Mars.

Electric propulsion was originally conceived in the 1950s as a way to get people to Mars – long before Elon Musk popularized the concept for the 21st century.

“Back then, there were no envisioned applications, other than human space travel,” Kronhaus tells ISRAEL21c.

Now, with satellites handling everything from GPS navigation to cell phone communication to spying on enemy nations, the use case has arrived.

Space hardware

Kronhaus was an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the Technion for seven years. The technology for Space Plasmatics, he says, has been “incubating in my lab for the past decade.”

Space Plasmatics cofounder Andrew Pearlman. Photo courtesy of Space Plasmatics

“It’s very unusual for a professor to start a company,” Kronhaus says. “I’m paving a unique path here.”

Space Plasmatics cofounder Andrew Pearlman is a serial entrepreneur who has raised more than $150 million for 10 Israeli companies since his arrival here from the United States in 1981. He describes his role in Space Plasmatics as Kronhaus’s “coach, copilot and righthand man.”

“We’re exclusively space hardware,” Kronhaus says. “We can’t re-use our engines in cars or planes. We’re making a real, physical product, not just writing code. That makes it more difficult to convince investors to come in.”

But some have.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) took an interest in Space Plasmatics and invited the company to participate in the Astra incubator, co-run by the accelerator Starburst and IAI. The Israel Innovation Authority has also helped fund Kronhaus’s vision.

The Knesset last year pledged to invest the shekel equivalent of $180 million in the civilian space industry over the next five years. Start-Up Nation Central estimates the worldwide space economy is worth $400 billion.

Larger satellites

In June, Kronhaus signed a deal to develop its plasma thrusters for IAI’s satellites. This deal points to a shift in the industry.

For much of the past decade, tiny nanosatellites (CubeSats), just a few tens of kilograms in weight, were assumed to be the future of the industry.

Israel excelled at these small satellites.

“It’s no secret that we can’t launch over neighboring Arab states. And we don’t build huge rockets. So, we build smaller rockets with a smaller payload that are launched in the wrong direction!” Kronhaus says.

That “wrong direction” requires more fuel, “so we have to reduce the payload we’re carrying even further.”

But now, the main market seems to be in bigger satellites that weigh several hundred kilograms, Kronhaus says. It makes economic sense – bigger satellites carry bigger payloads, which results in faster ROI.

Larger satellites are also what IAI specializes in.

The IAI arrangement is positioned as a trial to see if Space Plasmatics can scale up to IAI’s needs. Kronhaus is convinced they can and that IAI will become a paying customer.

How it works

For any rocket scientists reading this, here are a few technical details.

Kronhaus’s plasma thrusters are essentially a better version of a Hall thruster, a model developed in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s.

The thruster does need some fuel but uses nonflammable, noncombustible gases such as xenon and krypton.

Space Plasmatics’ microHET thruster prototype. Photo courtesy of Space Plasmatics

“The inert gas is in the propellant tank on the satellite,” Kronhaus says. “The Hall thruster feeds a certain amount of it to the engine at a constant rate. The electric field gives the gas the energy to ionize. There’s a nice blue plasma flame as the ions are accelerated. This acceleration is what produces thrust.”

Kronhaus says that Space Plasmatics’ tech also reduces the weight of the satellite, because normally it’s the fuel tank that contributes the most weight to the device.

Hall thrusters, however, are not for every space application. Landing on the Moon or shooting missiles require the higher power of chemical propulsion.

Space Plasmatics is still developing its thrusters. Assuming the company continues with IAI and/or raises more money, Kronhaus and Pearlman say a full working version of the company’s product should be ready by Q2 2025.


Space Plasmatics has plenty of competitors: Austria-based Enpulsion; Thrustme and Exotrail from France; Astra and Rafael from Israel.

However, Kronhaus is banking on Space Plasmatics’ high thrust and high fuel economy. “We improve the performance of a Hall engine at low power,” he says.

It doesn’t hurt that Kronhaus has a PhD in electric propulsion and is considered an expert in the field – in Israel and beyond.

Will Kronhaus’s technology and Pearlman’s business savvy be enough for this four-person company in Haifa to make a dent in the space-tech space? We’ll be watching.

Bacteria can be found everywhere, and some are bad and cause illnesses, but some do more good more than harm.

There are thousands of kinds of bacteria – microscopic, single-celled organisms that are among the earliest known life forms on earth and live in every possible environment all over the world. They might be airborne or found in water, plants, soil, animals and even humans, where some cause dangerous diseases such as salmonella, pneumonia, meningitis, tuberculosis, anthrax, tetanus and botulism.

However, many bacteria, including the ones that comprise the human gut microbiome, do good rather than harm. Bacteria can even be turned into tiny factories that manufacture needed products.

Now, researchers at the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed “bionic bacteria” that have many potential applications in industry.

Among those applications are the targeted release of biological drugs in the body using external light and other precise medical uses, sensing hazardous substances in the environment and the production of better fuels and other compounds. 

The study was led by Assistant Prof. Omer Yehezkeli and doctoral student Oren Bachar, and co-authored by doctoral student Matan Meirovich and master’s student Yara Zeibaq. Their work has just appeared in the international edition of Angewandte Chemie under the title “Protein-Mediated Biosynthesis of Semiconductor Nanocrystals for Photocatalytic NADPH Regeneration and Chiral Amine Production.” The journal, which is published by the German Chemical Society, officially described it as a “hot paper.”

“My research group deals with the interface between engineering and biotechnology at the nanoscale level,” said Yehezkeli. “Our goal is to blur the current boundaries between the different disciplines, and mostly between nanometer materials and biological systems such as bacteria. In our research, we use the unique properties of nanoscale particles on the one hand, and the tremendous selectivity of biological systems on the other, to create bionic systems that perform synergistically.”

Nanoscale semiconductor particles are usually produced in chemical processes that demand high temperatures and organic solvents. In the new Technion study, the researchers were able to create – using engineered proteins – an environment that makes possible the growth of nanometer particles under biological conditions and at room temperature. In turn, the grown nanoparticles can lead to light-induced processes of biological components.

“The use of engineered proteins for the self-growth of nanomaterials is a promising strategy that opens up new scientific horizons for combining inanimate and living matter,” added Yehezkeli. In the current study, the researchers demonstrated the use of engineered proteins to grow cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanoparticles that are capable of recycling nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) with light radiation.

“This is an essential electron donor in all organisms that provides the reducing power to drive numerous reactions, including those responsible for the biosynthesis of all major cell components and many products in biotechnology with light radiation. NADPH is crucial in many enzymatic processes and therefore its generation is desired,” Yehezkeli explained.

CdS nanoparticles have applications as an excellent photographic developer for the detection of cancers and other diseases, and in the treatment of cancer cells. The antibacterial and antifungal biological activity on various foodborne bacteria and fungi can also be studied with the use of CdS nanoparticles.

Enzymes are a common biological component involved in all living cell functions. Billions of years of evolution have led to the development of a broad spectrum of enzymes responsible for the many and varied functions in the cell, said Yehezkeli.

In their study, the researchers showed that NADPH could be produced (recycled) using the genetically modified protein made up of 12 repeating subunits that form a donut-like structure with a three-nanometer “hole” (three-billionths of a meter in diameter).

“This is a preliminary demonstration of the direct connection of inanimate matter [abiotic] with living matter [biotic] and a platform for its operation in a way that does not exist in nature,” concluded Yehezkeli.

“The technology we have developed enables the creation of hybrid components that connect these two types of materials into one unit, and we are already working on fully integrated living cells with promising initial results.

We believe that beyond the specific technological success in the production of NADPH and [various other] materials, there is evidence of the feasibility of a new paradigm that may contribute greatly to improving performance in many areas including energy, medicine, and the environment.” 

“There is evidence of the feasibility of a new paradigm that may contribute greatly to improving performance in many areas including energy, medicine, and the environment.”

Professor Omer Yehezkeli

Israeli food-tech startup More Foods has announced a new partnership with Tivall, a vegetarian frozen food brand owned by food giant Osem-Nestlé. 

More Foods makes high-protein, high-fiber meat alternatives from pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Its products are served in over 100 Israeli restaurants as well as restaurants in the UK and France. 

The startup says its high-protein product uses the seeds in a way that allows for textures and flavors that are not usually found in meat substitutes, mimicking the variety available for meat eaters. 

The collaboration with Tivall, which is based on Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot in northern Israel, will allow More Foods to expand its distribution to meet the growing demand for clean, plant-based products. 

This partnership marks Tivall’s first time working with a food-tech startup. 

“We are proud to partner with the Osem-Nestlé Group and combine our unique product offering with their market accessibility,” said Leonardo Marcovitz, founder of More Foods.

“This collaboration represents an important milestone in our journey to broaden our market presence, reach a larger customer base, and further our mission to make nutritious meaty center-plate plant-based products more accessible to consumers worldwide,” he said. 

More Foods was founded in 2019 and is headquartered in Tel Aviv. 

A startup that generates detailed 3D maps of underground utilities without the need for excavation is expanding into the UK as part of a project with one of the country’s largest railway infrastructure companies. 

Tel Aviv-based Exodigo helps companies carry out construction projects by combining 3D imaging and AI technologies with GPR (ground penetrating radar) and electromagnetic sensors to give a clear picture of what’s underground.

Coles Rail used Exodigo’s technology to scan and map a project in Birmingham for part of a light rail expansion that will connect to the city’s Curzon Street Station.

The UK-based company encountered “uncharted services” that were not noted on any existing records. Using Exodigo, Coles Rail was able to detect over 280 below ground utility lines (including 51 additional lines that no other locator or records had detected), providing invaluable data that reduced redesigns and delays.

Exodigo’s tech can identify water and gas pipes, electricity cables, water sources, and other buried obstacles that could cause leaks, explosions or unexpected delays. Actual excavations are time consuming, inaccurate, expensive, and can cause leaks, explosions, or unexpected delays. 

“Redesigns and service strikes as a result of incomplete or inaccurate subsurface mapping continue to be a problem in the UK,” said Trevor Moore, UK Director of Exodigo.

“In my time in the industry, I have seen these issues cause costly delays to critical projects and it puts lives at risk. Exodigo’s technology has the potential to mitigate many of the risks associated with large infrastructure projects by providing comprehensive information about what lies beneath the surface.”

Hamish Falconer, Project Manager on the rail extension for Coles Rail, said: “Excavating around buried services is one of our biggest risks, and the stat plans provided by statutory undertakers are in large part inaccurate. 

“Exodigo’s surveys provide us with much more reliable data that can then be used to select safer excavation techniques around known services.”  

In a 1931 essay, Winston Churchill wrote about how he sees the future of food production: “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium,” he wrote.

Fast forward some 90 years, and Churchill’s prediction is coming true, thanks in part to Israeli food-tech company Aleph Farms, which has developed a unique method to cultivate steak meat from isolated cow cells.

First to develop cultured steak

“We’re the first company that has managed to develop cultured steak. Not ground beef or nuggets — an actual steak,” says Aleph Farms’ Senior Manager of Marketing Communication Yoav Peer. 

Aleph Farms’ steak developed from cow cells. Photo by Yulia Karra

The company’s primary vision is not dissimilar to that of Churchill — to advance food security through the ability to produce meat independent of climate change and dwindling natural resources. 

The company grows only the edible parts of cows, using stem cells to generate meat. The focus is solely on beef for now, because of the taxing environmental impact of cattle-raising and because beef is considered the highest quality type of meat. 

The Rehovot-based startup, established in 2017, now boasts 150 employees, the majority of whom work in R&D. 

And it shows. In Aleph Farms’ offices, biologists and biochemists pop from room to room in white coats, giving a sense that you are inside one giant medical lab.

“Aleph Farms was established as an initiative of Strauss Group [one of the largest food manufacturers in Israel] and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, with the cooperation of private investors and the government,” Peer tells ISRAEL21c.

Cultured steaks in supermarkets by 2026

Aleph Farms has been generating quite a buzz recently. It became the first to cultivate beef in space in 2019, and even boasts Hollywood star and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio as one of its investors. 

Aleph Farms’ Talent Acquisition Manager & Human Resources Business Partner Orit Berman with Israeli Arabs participating in the company’s social action program. Photo courtesy of Aleph Farms

The company is also part of a social-action campaign that works to integrate Israeli Arabs into the country’s high-tech sector. 

The actual product is expected to hit the market by the end of this year, starting with select restaurants once Aleph Farms receives regulatory approvals from Israeli Health Ministry and Singapore’s Health Agency. 

Why those two countries?

“Israel and Singapore share a lot of challenges related to food security,” says Peer.

“They don’t have enough resources to feed the local population, so they’re looking at cultivated meat that could be produced anywhere without taking up land and water needed for cattle.”

In the initial stages, Aleph Farms will produce roughly 10 tons of cultured steak per year, and in the future establish additional production facilities. “The goal is to get to supermarkets by 2026,” Peer says.

One of the biggest challenges is to produce at a reasonable cost. 

“It requires innovation in production to make the process more efficient. So, in the beginning it is going to be priced similarly to premium beef. But we hope to reduce the cost within a few years from our launch, until we reach price parity with the broader beef market,” says Peer.

From a fertilized egg to a steak

The first batch of cells the company worked with came from a fertilized egg of a cow named Lucy from California. Lucy apparently was extremely fertile and genetically superior compared to “average” cows. 

“Lucy has children all around the world,” Peer says. He adds that picking a donor is extremely important in order not to end up with “a full tank of problematic cells” from which the meat would be cultivated. 

But how does a fertilized egg from a living cow end up as a beefsteak? To answer that question, we turn to Director of Differentiation at Aleph Farms Natali Molotski.

Director of Differentiation at Aleph Farms Natali Molotski. Photo by Yulia Karra

“To undergo that process, cells need to take on specialized roles, not just multiply. We start working with cells when they are pluripotent,” she says. 

Most of us know pluripotent cells by their “mainstream” name — stem cells. Stem cells can become any type of cell, under the right guidance. 

“You take an embryonic cell and guide it to be whatever you want — muscle, connective tissue or fat cells. Getting the cells to differentiate in the right way is what my team focuses on,” Molotski tells ISRAEL21c. 

“We know how this process happens in the cow’s body, but it takes nine months or so. We need to replicate that process in a few days to reduce production cost. We had to learn to mimic the natural process of cell development, while dealing with regulatory constraints because at the end of the day people are going to eat it. It’s a huge challenge.”


The trickiest aspect in the development of cultured meat is recreating the texture, such as tissue and blood vessels. “You need to feed the cells the right food in order for them to have the same taste as animal meat.”

The cells are fed an “animal cell culture media” developed exclusively by Aleph Farms — and it is, well, also cultured. 

“The common media consists of serum that is derived from cows. So we developed unique media at this company that is without serum, and later we got rid of all animal components [in cell food],” says Molotski.

“When you work in tissue culture with cells, you don’t even think about it. But when you’re producing it for cultured meat, you can’t feed the cells something that comes — although indirectly — from animal slaughter.”

Even with the most exclusive and expensive food, some cells will not grow up to be steaks. 

“We have a machine here that was used for PCR coronavirus tests,” says Molotski. “It helps us extract the DNA and see which cells are more suitable for muscle tissue, for example, and which will not make it to the next round of development.” 

Why not simply extract grown cells from a specific body part of an animal and cultivate the meat that way, saving time that it takes to grow a cell from scratch? 

“That would be quicker and cheaper,” she concedes. “But, these cells die very quickly. Our cells can be in use forever, so you don’t have to go each time and extract new ones. You also need to take into consideration the issue of genetic stability.”

Although the company now is hyper focused on cultured meat, Aleph Farms’ ultimate vision is lab cultivation of all animal products “from leather to collagen,” adds Peer. 

In a huge step towards the future of power generation and propulsion, a team led by Associate Professor Beni Cukurel at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, has designed a micro gas turbine using additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. This revolutionary development presents an ingenious approach towards the ‘Design for Additive Manufacturing’ principle, significantly challenging conventional manufacturing paradigms.

Geometric Technology Demonstrator of Additively Manufactured Pre-Assembled Micro-Turbojet Engine. Photo via Technion Turbomachinery and Heat Transfer laboratory.

Unlike conventional manufacturing techniques, Cukurel’s team and the Turbomachinery and Heat Transfer laboratory tapped into the potential of AM in its purest form. In his words, “When you’re using [AM] just as another manufacturing technique, you’re not really fully capitalizing on the benefits of additive manufacturing.” Rather than simply integrating AM as an alternative tool, the team reimagined it as a core resource, creating designs a priori to satisfy constraints and leverage the benefits of AM.

At the heart of their research are micro gas turbines, designed for proportionate power generation. Cukurel defines micro gas turbines as systems capable of generating electricity below 300 kilowatts and thrust below two kilonewtons. Taking the AM approach, the team started their first project, a 5cm scale micro gas turbine that could potentially provide 300 watts for a drone. The micro turbine offers a significant increase in flight time due to its higher energy density compared to conventional batteries.

Functionality of various path indicated by gas and fuel path. Image via Technion Turbomachinery and Heat Transfer laboratory.

The team didn’t stop at the micro gas turbine; they further leveraged their AM knowledge during the COVID-19 crisis. They innovated a pre-assembled, self-supported turbomachinery design for medical ventilators. “We transitioned this know-how that we developed in pre-assembled self-supported turbomachinery architectures to gas turbines,” said Cukurel.

The breakthrough offered by these pre-assembled, self-supporting micro gas turbines hinges on their on-demand availability and cost-effectiveness. The primary cost is confined to machine time and power consumption, considerably reducing production expenditure.

Cukurel acknowledged that such innovative work was only possible due to a fruitful collaboration with von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, Izmir Katip Celebi University, and PTC. The NATO-funded project saw each party bring its unique expertise to the table. Von Karman Institute provided high-fidelity simulation for aerodynamics and combustion, Izmir Katip Celebi University lent its computational fluid dynamics skills for assessing the load-bearing capacity of hydrostatic bearings, and PTC offered its extensive knowledge in AM technologies, in particular through its powerful CAD design and simulation framework, Creo.

Self-supported Rotor (turbine-shaft-compressor) and Encompassing Self-supported Stationary Housing (recuperator, nozzle guide vanes, bearing housing, combustor, diffusor). Photo via Technion Turbomachinery and Heat Transfer laboratory.

Optimizing performance with additive manufacturing

Addressing the constraints of design for additive manufacturing, Cukurel explains that they began by developing a reduced order model. In simple terms, this is an optimized model that maintains the crucial aspects of the original system, but simplifies it for easier analysis and use.

In designing a jet engine, traditionally, aerodynamics takes center stage. The goal is to achieve peak performance in terms of thermodynamics, translating to the thrust-to-weight ratio and specific fuel consumption, or in other words, power and energy density. However, this approach falters when it comes to miniaturized engines.

“What we have created are reduced order models that capture all the disciplines present in the engine. These include aerodynamics, heat transfer, rotor dynamics, and combustion, among others,” Cukurel explains. Think of it like condensing a symphony into a solo performance – you need to maintain the essence of the piece while also accommodating the capabilities of the lone performer.

He continues to detail how they’ve created a multidisciplinary optimization environment that a priori knows all the constraints of additive manufacturing. This basically means they’ve designed a system that, from the beginning, understands the limits of what it can create. It’s like an experienced architect who knows not to design a roof with angles too steep for the building materials to support.

They’ve ensured that every layer built during the manufacturing process is self-supported while obeying the constraints of additive manufacturing, which includes considerations for cantilever angles, minimum thicknesses, and porosity, among others.

When asked about the material used in the component being discussed, Cukurel confirms that it’s a metal part printed with an EOS M 290. “We’re also using Lithoz for all our ceramic manufacturing,” he adds. Lithoz is a ceramic manufacturing company that Cukurel speaks highly of, stating that they’ve been “very supportive and enthusiastic about this unique application of the technology.”

Ceramic components, while being tougher to manufacture, offer advantages like smaller defect sizes and smoother finishes, leading to improved aerodynamic performance. This performance translates into significant savings in fuel consumption, hence the potential appeal of using ceramics for specific components.

Cukurel concludes by emphasizing the importance of hitting the conceptual design target, noting that a deviation of as little as 5% can impact fuel savings or thrust by almost the same margin. In the world of jet engine design, even the smallest percentage points can lead to major changes. The compressor performance of the ceramic parts was aerodynamically somewhere between three to four percentage points greater, “I know it sounds small, but you know people sacrifice their firstborn child for the 1% difference in performance,” said Cukurel.

Monolithic additively manufactured silicon nitride rotor of ultra micro gas turbine, designed to operate at 500,000 RPM. Photo via Technion Turbomachinery and Heat Transfer laboratory.

Is the future of energy 3D printed?

The future of energy could be reinvented by Israeli researchers and their work on preassembled engines using 3D printing technology. Their project, focusing on the application of micro gas turbines in distributed energy generation, is shaking up conventional understandings of energy efficiency and creating new possibilities for sustainability.

Cukurel offered two distinct applications for the technology. Firstly, he highlighted military usage, specifically unmanned aerial systems. In this sphere, supply chain disruption is a significant concern, potentially leaving crucial operations without essential components like bearings for six to nine months. The preassembled engine technology circumvents this problem by eliminating the need for such a supply chain altogether.

The second, and arguably more compelling application, is in distributed energy generation. The conventional centralized power plants have an energy efficiency cap at around 65%, meaning 35% of energy generated simply goes to waste. Cukurel proposed a solution using combined heat and power with distributed micro gas turbines in localities. 

5cm scale ultra micro gas turbine intended to produce 300w. Photo via Technion Turbomachinery and Heat Transfer laboratory.

He further explained, “Renewables are interrupted sources. You don’t want to rely on whether there will be wind today, right? Or there’ll be sun today. You want to run your factory no matter what. So then how do you have an agile, robust grid even when your renewables may or may not be producing?”

Agile in this context doesn’t mean sprinting around a track. It refers to the ability to quickly adapt and respond to changes in energy demand. In this case, those changes are the unpredictable outputs of renewable energy sources. Traditional centralized power plants aren’t exactly Usain Bolt in this race—they’re not built for quick changes. Small micro gas turbines, however, are.

Although the transformative potential of this technology is evident, a major obstacle lies in the return on investment. As it stands, the cost of these micro gas turbines is too high to yield a satisfactory ROI in a reasonable timeframe. Yet, the technology discussed here offers a potential breakthrough by drastically reducing the associated costs.

Furthermore, these researchers have plans to commercialize their work. A spinoff from Technion is in the pipeline, and partnerships with industry players and strategic investors are on the cards. Cukurel expressed his excitement at the potential societal impact of their work, particularly in enabling micro gas turbines to burn ammonia, which could act as a renewable, green, carbon-free fuel. He passionately explained, “Forget about all this work that I’ve mentioned to you. Okay, just to be able to have a micro gas turbine that’s burning ammonia, in terms of sustainability is a breakthrough.”

Ammonia has been used as fuel before, notably during World War II in Belgium, but the combustor designs for gas turbines have changed significantly since then. The technology Cukurel and his team have developed — a porous media combustor — is particularly suited for burning ammonia. While they didn’t invent the porous media combustor, they are the first to apply it to this landscape.

With my curiosity sufficiently piqued, I delved further into the mechanics of ammonia combustion.

Silicon carbide Porous Media Combustor providing wide stability for fuel/air ratios. Photo via Technion Turbomachinery and Heat Transfer laboratory.

Sustainable energy using ammonia engines

The wartime ammonia-powered engines presented a number of challenges, primarily their sensitivity to fuel and a general lack of flexibility. That’s why Cukurel and his team found gas turbines a more appropriate technology for their project.

“In gas turbines,” Cukurel explained, “most of the combustor designs use a completely different technology. They optimize for vaporization, then have these dilution tubes to meter the fuel, and introduce the hot gases into the turbine.” What sets the Technion team apart is their unique application of a specific technology – the porous media combustor. This is the first time it’s been applied to ammonia-burning micro gas turbines, making their work ground-breaking.

Let’s demystify the term ‘porous media combustor.’ It’s a special type of combustor where the fuel-air mixture is burned within a porous medium, creating highly efficient, low-emission combustion. This isn’t something new; it has been around for at least 50 years, with traditional manufacturing methods involving dipping foams into a ceramic slurry and then sintering them. However, as Cukurel points out, this gives you “no control over the porosity and how it gets distributed in the flow direction.”

The breakthrough lies in the application of additive manufacturing. I was fortunate enough to observe one of these combustors, and what caught my eye was its doughnut shape with an organic, bubble-like lattice structure inside. The porosity of this structure changes in the flow direction, which in this case is radially inward. This is where the utility of 3D printing comes in, as it allows for control of the porosity gradient that is impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing techniques.

Porous Media Combustor operating with premixed fuel/air mixtures. Photo via Technion Turbomachinery and Heat Transfer laboratory.

Cukurel is also a co-author of a recent paper providing a comprehensive analysis of the design, production, assembly, and high-speed testing of monolithic rotors using Lithography-based ceramic manufacturing (LCM) and Selective Laser Melting (SLM) techniques. Entitled, Ceramic and metal additive manufacturing of monolithic rotors from sialon and Inconel and comparison of aerodynamic performance for 300W scale microturbines, this is the first study to directly compare micro-turbomachinery components made with these methods using aerodynamic and manufacturing quality assurance diagnostics. The paper examines the aerodynamic implications of support-free compressor and turbine design, formulates detailed manufacturing considerations and process parameters for both LCM and SLM, and conducts quality analysis of the parts through surface and CT scans, as well as SEM micrography. The results reveal that LCM rotors exhibit higher geometric detail, better surface finish, fewer manufacturing-related surface artifacts, and lower porosity compared to SLM rotors.

These groundbreaking concepts and future applications could change the world as we know it. As we face the existential threat of climate change, innovations like these are not just intriguing; they may be crucial for our survival. 

About one person in 50 – equally in men and women –will suffer from alopecia areata at some point in their life.

Haifa researchers have found a non-genetic cause for alopecia areata baldness, which triggered the surprising incident at the the 94th Academy Awards in which actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock after he joked about Smiths wife’s shaved head because of the autoimmune disease.

About one person in 50 – equally in men and women – will suffer from alopecia areata at some point in their life. The condition can develop at any age, although most people are diagnosed for thefirst time before the age of 30. In recent years, more and more research evidence has accumulated on the source of the autoimmune disease in an inflammatory process caused by cells that develop in patients with genetic predisposition that attack the hair follicle at its growth stage and results in the collapse of the immune system that characterizes it.

But a new study at the dermatology department at the Rambam Healthcare Campus and the skin research lab at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine has found evidence of another source – involvement of innate lymphoid cells-type 1 (ILC1) – that can cause its outbreak among people who do not belong to the high-risk group.

It has just published in the online journal e-Life under the title “Involvement of ILC1-like innate lymphocytes in human autoimmunity, lessons from alopecia areata.”

Hair loss caused by alopecia areata. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A common skin disease that breaks out when the immune system attacks and harms the hair follicles, after accidentally recognizing the body’s tissue as a foreign tissue, it causes baldness on largeareas of the scalp, and in more severe cases, there is body-hair loss on larger and other places, as well as itching and a feeling of burning in the affected areas. There is no cure, but last June, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a first drug to treat severe cases of the condition – baricitinib (Olumiant).

Olumiant is a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor that blocks the activity of one or more of a specific family of enzymes, interfering with the pathway that leads to inflammation. It restored hair growth in 25% to 35% of patients but also causes side effects.

Rambam and Technion researchers found evidence of another source

In recent years, more and more research evidence has accumulated on the source of the autoimmune disease in an inflammatory process caused by cells that develop in patients with genetic predisposition, which attack the hair follicle at its growth stage and results in the collapse of the training that characterizes it. However, a new study common to Rambam and the Technion has found evidence of another source, which can cause the outbreak of the disease among people who do not belong to the risk group.

The conventional hypothesis is that CD8 cells are responsible for the disease. But in a study conducted by a team led by Prof. Amos Gilhar and in collaboration with researcher Dr. Aviad Keren and Professor Dr. Rimma Laufer- Britva , another group of cells was found that so much was unknown to its involvement in the disease. LC-1 constantly secretes a variety of proteins that usually attack external factors that invade the tissues they are in,” explained Gilhar.

Thus, the classic lymphocyte cells, those that used to be regarded as solely responsible for the onset of the disease, are not alone.

As part of the research experiments, the team transferred these cells to a healthy scalp and then transplanted on unique mice. Exposing hair follicles from a completely healthy source to ILC-1 cells caused the secretion of a high level of interferon gamma, a material known as a major part in causing hair loss leading to alopecia areata – so there is not a single route, in which genetics and classical immune cells play an exclusive role, but several pathways, said Gilhar.

The journal editor commented that the study provides “compelling evidence that injection of ILC1-like cells induces alopecia in a mouse model grafted with human hair follicle-containing skin and will be of interest to immunologists, skin biologists, and scientists interested in autoimmune disorders” and eventually leading to better treatment of alopecia areata.

In October 2023, Professor Emeritus Avraham Shtub of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, will offer his course “New Product Development” as a Global Network online course for the ninth time. While the content is similar, the course has evolved over the years. In 2014, “New Product Development” was among the first small network online courses (SNOCs) offered through the Global Network for Advanced Management. In 2019, a version of the course was added to Coursera, and Shtub shifted to a “flipped classroom model” for the SNOC, assigning lectures on Coursera for homework, and then using the virtual class time for discussion. Then in 2021 and 2022, the course added an additional experiential component. Shtub assigned students to projects with early-stage startup founders with whom they collaborated, giving them hands-on experience in product development.

We asked Professor Shtub about his motivation for offering the course as a SNOC and what students can expect from the course.

What made you decide to teach this particular course as a SNOC?
As the head of the project management research center at the Technion I was asked to develop a course focusing on the management of New Product Development (NPD) projects, as part of the new Startup MBA program at the Technion. Today I teach this course at several universities in Europe and the USA using zoom.
During a meeting of GNAM universities in China I presented this course as part of the Technion presentation. Several universities – members of GNAM – were interested in the course. I agreed to teach it as a SNOC as it was a great opportunity to collaborate with other GNAM universities and to teach students how to manage international NPD projects.  
Who should take this course?
The course is designed for students who want to learn how to manage NPD projects and would like to apply this knowledge in the framework of an international team of GNAM students. Specifically, students who consider the idea of founding a new startup can use this course to simulate the development process, including the preparation of a project plan and its execution in a simulated environment.
What does the global virtual environment of a SNOC provide for students in terms of cross-cultural learning, and how can this also help you?
Many NPD projects are performed by international teams. The concept of a Glocal product (Global product with a local adaptation) is based on the understanding of customers’ needs and expectations in different countries. Working with a team of GNAM students from different countries facilitates cross-cultural learning and helps in the development of ideas for Glocal products and services.
What do you hope students take away from your class that they can apply to their careers, regardless of the path they choose?
I hope that the tools and techniques discussed and used in this course will help the students in focusing on the most important issues in the New Product Development process. The opportunity to work with a team of GNAM students from other countries will expose the participants to other cultures and a variety of decision-making processes.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that is worth considering or mentioning? 
A paper recently published:

Solan, D., & Shtub, A. (2023). Development and implementation of a new product development course combining experiential learning, simulation, and a flipped classroom in remote learning. The International Journal of Management Education, 21(2).‏
Can help students understand the course content, structure and learning outcomes.

While the micro turbojet engine may be small – weighing only eight pounds – it remains a startling chunk of Inconel. The engine is a single, complete assembly, including all rotating and stationary components.

The turbojet was designed in Creo CAD software, using Inconel as the material and an EOS 3D metal printer as the production machine. “The engine is about the size of a basketball. It would probably be used for drones,” Steve Dertien, chief technology officer at PTC, said during a presentation.

The jet engine project was the brainchild of Ronen Ben Horin, a VP of technology at PTC and a senior research fellow at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology – and Beni Cukurel, an associate professor of aerospace at Technion. The two took their scientific research in jet propulsion and their engineering expertise and designed the engine for additive manufacturing.

When designing the engine, the researchers focused on:

  • A lightweight design: That required sophisticated lattice modeling and generative design for material and weight reduction while maintaining the appropriate strength and performance that could match designs with more material and heavier weight.
  • Self-supporting geometries for 3D Printing: That means the software had to optimize designs for printability. Creo needed to create self-supported formula-driven lattices that can be paired with printability checks and modifiers to adjust the design for printing efficiency.
  • 3D printing equipment interoperability: Creo software is compatible with most 3D printing equipment for printing and post-processing. Creo provides a variety of formats, including 3MF, for sending 3D models to the market’s various printer technologies, while also allowing users to create associative models for machining operations. This micro-jet engine was printed with an EOS printer.

In a statement, Cukurel acknowledged that designing the engine with Horin was the culmination of many years of research that included staying on top of advancements in the supporting technology of 3D printing and design software. He noted that the design offers a viable way of producing micro turbojet engines.

While this machine is not the first 3D-printed jet engine —  Monash University in Australia claimed that title in 2015, and GE claimed it in 2020 – Cukurel and Horin can probably claim bragging rights for doing it as one piece.