Reps from 10 startups spend four days meeting with British executives, investors and policymakers in collaborative events and discussions.

A delegation of climate-tech innovators from Israel enjoyed a morning welcome reception at the British House of Lords, opening a groundbreaking event hosted by Lord Ian Austin from June 26-29.

The UK-Israel Climate First Delegation was organized by Israeli climate-tech accelerator Climate First with the UK-Israel Business Bilateral Chamber of Commerce, which has fostered growth and investment between the UK and Israel since 1950.

Representatives were from Helios (large-scale carbon capture), Hydro X (hydrogen storage and transport), Criaterra (sustainable building materials), Daika (natural materials from wood waste), Gigaton Carbon (ocean-based CO2 removal and storage), Momentick (monitoring greenhouse gas emissions), QD-SOL (green hydrogen), Zohar CleanTech (decentralized waste disposal systems), Luminescent (isothermal heat engine) and NakAI (maritime cleaning and inspection robots).

“Our mission at Climate First is to empower companies that can help us meet our net-zero goals,” said Nadav Steinmetz, cofounder and managing partner of Climate First.

“Through this UK-Israel delegation, we are furthering that mission by bridging the gap between innovative Israeli companies and the UK’s vast network of investors, policymakers and business leaders. Together, we can unlock potential and accelerate the global transition towards a climate-resilient future.”

During their visit, the delegates interacted with British executives, investors and policymakers in collaborative events and discussions. Meetings were scheduled with Lord Browne, founder and chairman of BeyondNetZero; Generation Investment Management Just Climate Fund; Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital; J.P. Morgan ClimateTech; BlackRock Decarbonisation Partners; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); and representatives from Prince William’s Earthshot Prize.

Prof. Gideon Grader awarded the Institut de France prize for developing the E-TAC process that enables splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Prof. Gideon Grader from Israel’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology was recently awarded the Grand Prix Scientifique research grant by the Institut de France for developing innovative green hydrogen technology.

The Institut de France, a nonprofit organization founded in 1795 that unites five French academies, encourages research, supports creativity, and funds many humanitarian projects.

Grader has developed a process — dubbed E-TAC — along with his Technion colleagues, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen by decoupling the production of the two gasses. This is achieved by circulating electrolyte solutions at different temperatures through the electrodes.

The professor later developed unique electrodes that move continuously between the separated sites where the hydrogen and oxygen are produced simultaneously, allowing for the E-TAC process to be continuous and not an isolated action.

The scientists say the method will enable long-term operation at a low cost and easier scaleup to industrial level.

In 2019, green hydrogen company H2Pro was founded using the E-TAC technology. The 100-strong company has since raised over $100 million from venture capital funds, including Bill Gates’ BEV fund, TEMASEK, and Horizon Ventures. H2Pro was recently selected by BloombergNEF as one of the most promising companies for solving the climate change crisis.

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.

The daily commute for many Israelis means long hours by bus or car, navigating a gridlocked central Israel – the heart of the country’s business sector. 

Israel’s traffic jams are notorious. In 2021, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that the country’s transportation infrastructure was in worse shape than most of its other members – and singled out the congestion on the roads as being especially egregious. 

But Israel – with its strong tech ecosystem and ethos of innovation – has devised a futuristic solution to dodge traffic jams by sending people and parcels to their destination through the air in unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as UAVs or drones).

Dronery’s UAV is designed to carry people through the air for distances of up to 30km (Mark Nomdar)

And this month, that solution moved even closer to reality, with the Israel National Drone Initiative (INDI) testing drones that can carry both passengers and goods.  

INDI has been in development for the past four years, bringing together a variety of government bodies, including the Ministry of Transport, the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI). 

The IIA says the drone initiative is preparing the groundwork for the regular use of these unmanned flying vehicles in Israel, building the technology, regulation and infrastructure ahead of their introduction. 

The aim, it says, is not only to alleviate the human and environmental pressure on Israel’s roads, but also offer more efficient services and give the country’s high-tech sector a competitive edge on the global stage. 

Israel has invested 60 million shekels (approx. $16.5 million) in the project so far. 

This month’s tests involved 11 companies working in drone operation, including two whose aircraft are intended to transport people. 

The companies carried out trial missions at multiple locations across the country. And Daniella Partem, who heads Israel’s drone project as part of her leadership role at the IIA, says her team was pleasantly surprised at how swiftly they were making progress. 

The tests included groundbreaking autonomous flights by a pair of Israeli companies whose eVTOL (Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) craft can carry two people at a time. 

“We thought it would take longer to fly the eVTOLs in Israel,” Partem tells NoCamels, explaining that no other country is working in such an accelerated way in this field. 

“Our main objective is to have this competitive, safe ecosystem operating in Israel, and as opposed to other countries, we’re very focused and have a managing aerial system.”

The two companies planning to carry passengers are Dronery, whose Chinese-made, Israeli-adapted craft can carry 220 kg in cargo and fly as far as 30 km, and AIR, whose homegrown AIR ONE craft can carry up to 250 kg and for a far greater distance of 160 km. 

Their test flights involved taking off and landing in urban areas and the transportation of heavy cargo. Both sets of tests were conducted successfully using mannikins. 

Dronery tests its UAV designed to carry people from one location to another (Courtesy)

The government says that the test flights will continue around the country for the next two years, with the aircraft flying long distances of up to 150 km while increasing the weight of their payload in order to prepare for passengers.  

For Partem, this is just the beginning of a transportation revolution that could even see drones helping in life or death situations, such as delivering rare medications or ferrying patients between hospitals in emergencies. And the program is advancing satisfactorily. 

“We’ve managed to move forward pretty quickly into creating this new ecosystem  for drones and eVTOLs. And this is a very important milestone for us and the project; we’ve done over 19,000 sorties, in different places in Israel – up north, down south, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem,” she tells NoCamels. 

“We believe that this whole technology is something that can really help solve urgent problems such as traffic and such as air pollution, and help us move things from place to place in a more efficient and safe way,” Partem says.

Safe Skies  

With an active air force due to Israel’s security situation, the use of drones in the country’s heavily defended airspace inevitably involves some close coordination with the military. 

The technology to manage the airspace and the “corridors” (think roads in the sky) that the aircraft will be using is currently being developed, Partem says. 

Israel has tasked two companies with managing the airspace and, according to Partem, both will be employing the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) devised by the United States.  

Unlike in other countries, in Israel the airspace management will be overseen by the government, but the actual operation of the drones will be open to many companies, creating what Partem calls a “competitive ecosystem.” 

Each company will have to register with the authorities and limit themselves to a predetermined route but will ultimately be responsible for their own craft and their contents. The UTM, Partem says, “only helps them fly together in one space.” 

Partem is confident in the software and the hardware that comprises the safety measures in place for all bodies and interested parties, and cites an example of these security steps in action. 

“We had a helicopter flying into the airspace where the drones are flying. And you could see how the drones made their way around the helicopter. We can really see that we can have a safe environment,” she says.

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.”  

Three researchers have been awarded top honors in the EuroTech Future Award, beating out 34 other participants. The jury evaluated the impact of the candidates’ work on achieving global sustainability goals, the excellence of their research, and their ability to effectively communicate their research to non-experts, including policymakers and citizens.

Anders Bjarklev, President of the Technical University of Denmark and President of the EuroTech Universities Alliance, emphasized the importance of the research community in addressing the challenges faced by Europe and global society. He highlighted the passion, pursuit of knowledge, and innovative spirit of the talented young researchers from the six universities involved in the EuroTech Future Award.

The third prize was awarded to Dinesh Krishnamoorthy, an assistant professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. His research focuses on applying artificial intelligence in medical research, specifically in personalized insulin dosing for diabetes care. Krishnamoorthy’s work aims to develop AI algorithms that can automatically determine the optimal insulin dosage for individual patients, making diabetes management more affordable and accessible.

The first prize went to Charlotte Vogt, an assistant professor at the Israeli Technion. Vogt’s research centers around carbon dioxide hydrogenation catalysis. She believes that catalysts play a crucial role in addressing global warming by converting CO2 into useful materials or fuels. Vogt’s work focuses on developing new and improved catalysts through spectroscopic experiments to enhance the efficiency of CO2 conversion processes.

The second prize was awarded to Zongyao Zhou, a postdoctoral scientist at EPFL in Switzerland. Zhou’s research focuses on membrane-based technologies for wastewater recovery and the exploitation of green energy. He has developed a microporous polymer membrane that can effectively remove antibiotics and heavy metal ions from drinking water and extract lithium ions from seawater. Zhou’s research aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in promoting clean water and sanitation and affordable and clean energy.

The EuroTech Universities Alliance, a strategic partnership of leading European science and technology universities, aims to build a strong, sustainable, sovereign, and resilient Europe. The alliance’s partners contribute their excellence in research and education and actively engage in vibrant ecosystems and service to society. Together, they collaborate to accelerate research in high-tech focus areas and advocate for change, with a strong presence in Brussels.

The EuroTech Future Award recognizes the outstanding contributions of young researchers from the EuroTech Universities Alliance in securing a sustainable future. The winners’ research demonstrates their commitment to addressing global challenges and making a positive impact on society. 

How can personalized and more effective treatment for insulin requirements be achieved through N’s accurate predictions?

N accurately predict insulin requirements for individual patients, leading to personalized and more effective treatment.

The second prize went to Lavinia Heisenberg, a PhD candidate at the Technical University of Munich. Heisenberg’s research revolves around the development of sustainable materials for construction. She is working on creating bio-based composites that can replace traditional, resource-intensive materials like concrete and steel, thus reducing environmental impact without compromising structural integrity.

The first prize was awarded to Jean-Paul Moreau, a postdoctoral researcher at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Moreau’s research focuses on the development of sustainable energy storage solutions. He has been working on a new type of flow battery that uses abundant and non-toxic materials to store renewable energy. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the energy storage sector and facilitate the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources.

The EuroTech Future Award recognizes the importance of research in driving sustainable development and addressing global challenges. Through their innovative work, these young researchers have shown their commitment to finding solutions that can have a real impact on society. Their ability to effectively communicate their research to policymakers and citizens is also crucial in ensuring that their findings are translated into practical applications and policies.

The EuroTech Universities Alliance, consisting of six leading technical universities in Europe, plays a vital role in fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange among researchers. The EuroTech Future Award is just one example of how the alliance supports and recognizes outstanding research that contributes to a sustainable future.

With the recognition and support provided by the EuroTech Future Award, these three researchers have an even greater opportunity to further develop their work and make a meaningful contribution to achieving global sustainability goals. Their dedication and expertise serve as an inspiration to the research community and demonstrate the potential of science and technology in shaping a better future for all.

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. 

The quest for clean and sustainable energy sources has been a pressing concern for researchers and environmentalists alike. With the world’s population growing at an unprecedented rate, the demand for energy is higher than ever before. Traditional fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are not only finite resources but also major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. As a result, the need for alternative energy sources that are both renewable and environmentally friendly has become increasingly urgent.

One such promising alternative is hydrogen, a clean and abundant element that can be used as a fuel for various applications, including transportation and electricity generation. However, the production of hydrogen has long been a challenge, as it typically requires the use of fossil fuels or large amounts of electricity. This is where the solar-to-hydrogen breakthrough comes in, potentially revolutionizing the clean energy landscape.

The solar-to-hydrogen process involves using sunlight to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, a process known as photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting. This method has been the subject of extensive research for decades, but it has been hindered by the lack of efficient and cost-effective materials that can effectively absorb sunlight and catalyze the water-splitting reaction.

Recently, however, researchers have made significant strides in overcoming these obstacles, paving the way for a new era of clean energy. One such breakthrough comes from a team of scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Cambridge, who have developed a new class of photoelectrodes made from a novel metal oxide material. This material, known as a perovskite, has shown remarkable efficiency in converting sunlight into hydrogen, with minimal energy loss.

The key to the success of this new material lies in its unique electronic structure, which allows it to absorb a wide range of sunlight wavelengths and efficiently transfer the energy to the water-splitting reaction. Additionally, the perovskite material is highly stable and resistant to corrosion, making it an ideal candidate for long-term use in PEC water-splitting devices.

Another notable development in the solar-to-hydrogen field comes from researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, who have developed a new type of solar cell that can directly produce hydrogen from water. This innovative device, known as a direct solar water-splitting cell, combines the functions of a solar cell and an electrolyzer into a single unit, eliminating the need for external electrical connections and significantly reducing energy losses.

The direct solar water-splitting cell is made from a combination of semiconductor materials, which are carefully arranged in a multi-layered structure to optimize the absorption of sunlight and the generation of hydrogen. This design has demonstrated impressive efficiency levels, rivaling those of traditional solar cells and electrolyzers.

These groundbreaking advancements in solar-to-hydrogen technology hold immense potential for the future of clean energy. By harnessing the power of the sun to produce hydrogen, we can significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and curb greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, hydrogen can be easily stored and transported, making it a versatile energy carrier that can be used in various applications, from powering vehicles to generating electricity for homes and industries.

As research in the solar-to-hydrogen field continues to progress, we can expect to see further improvements in efficiency and cost-effectiveness, making this clean energy solution increasingly viable on a large scale. With the potential to revolutionize the way we produce and consume energy, the solar-to-hydrogen breakthrough marks the dawn of a new era in clean energy, one that promises a brighter and more sustainable future for our planet.

Several Israeli companies have joined the government-led initiative to ease traffic congestion.

Over the next two years, Israeli drone operating companies will conduct test flights throughout the country for one week each month. (B.Y. Creative & Productions)

A network of large drones – many of which are operated by Technion alums – have taken to the skies as the country prepares its national airspace for air taxi transportation and deliveries.

The Israel National Drone Initiative (INDI) – a two-year, NIS 60 million government-led pilot project – was established in 2019 to fly passengers and heavy cargo to reduce congestion on Israel’s busy roads.

Eleven drone companies were involved in the experimental flights this week, including:

  • Cando Drones. Its fully autonomous two-seater air taxi has been developed to carry passengers up to 220kg for up to 30km. CTO Moshe Kipnis and CFO Alon Zabuski are both alumni of the Technion.
  • Airways Drones. A provider of AI-based systems for the smart management of drone fleets. Investor, Oded Agam and Advisory Board Member, Yosef Fryszer, are alumni of the Technion.
  • Robotican. A developer of ground and air-based mobile autonomous robotic systems. Chief Scientist Amir Shapiro and Business Development Director, Eli Ben-Aharon, are both alumni of the Technion.

The INDI initiative is developing a “system of aerial routes in the sky” to allow different types of drones to fly simultaneously for various purposes, such as healthcare, commerce, security and passenger transportation.

Transportation Minister, Miri Regev, said: “This is the first initiative of its kind in the world for an extensive and multidisciplinary examination of new technologies, including the transportation of cargo and, later, people. The collaborative project examines all the aspects – including regulation and legislative changes – involved in the commercial operation of drones as an additional tool to deal with congestion.”

Over the next two years, the participating companies in the INDI initiative will continue to conduct flights throughout the country in controlled airspace.