Science & Technology
- Written by Technion
Distinguished Professor Dan Shechtman of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, it was announced today. Of the four Israeli scientists to have ever won the Nobel Prize, three are Technion professors.
Prof. Shechtman, of Technion's Faculty of Materials Engineering, won the award for his discovery in 1982 of quasicrystals – an entirely new form of matter with a mosaic-like chemical structure that researchers previously thought was impossible.
Israeli President Shimon Peres called Prof. Shechtman to congratulate him: "I salute you, you gave the people of Israel a wonderful gift. This is a great day for Haifa, a great day for the Technion."
"That an Israeli has once again been awarded a Nobel Prize is a mark of distinction for Israeli science in general and for the Technion," said Technion President Peretz Lavie. "And the fact that this is the third Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Technion researchers in eight years is a clear indicator of the world-class research being done here."
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman's discovery in 1982 fundamentally changed the way chemists look at solid matter. It initially faced strong objections from the scientific community, and even got him kicked out of his research group in the United States.
Since then, quasicrystals have been produced in laboratories and a Swedish company found them in one of the most durable kinds of steel, which is now used in products such as razor blades and thin needles made specifically for eye surgery, the Nobel citation said.
Scientists are also experimenting with using quasicrystals in coatings for frying pans, heat insulation in engines, and in light-emitting devices, or LEDs.
On April 8, 1982, when Shechtman first observed crystals with 10-point pentagonal symmetry, in the NBS laboratory in Maryland, crystallography had long been considered a "closed field" promising no revolutionary breakthroughs. Shechtman's groundbreaking quasiperiodic structure was first described in Physical Review Letters in 1984, marking the birth of a new scientific field of quasiperiodic crystals.
The scientific community, led by two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, rejected Shechtman's findings, but in 1987, the pattern which had previously been considered contrary to the laws of nature was observed with the help of the electron microscope.
More than 40 scientific books have been dedicated to quasiperiodic crystals, and hundreds of materials are known to exist with the structure discovered by Shechtman. In the wake of his discovery and its proof, the International Society of Crystallographers changed its basic definition of a crystal.
Prof. Shechtman's Nobel Prize follows many other prestigious awards including the Aminoff Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (2000), Wolf Foundation Prize in Physics (1999), Israel Prize in Physics (1998), Weizmann Prize in Science (1993), Rothschild Prize in Engineering (1990) and International Award for New Materials of the American Physical Society (1987). He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.
- Written by MFA
The Jerusalem AIDS Project is in the frontlines of the battle against the deadly virus.
Through Israeli circumcision operations, thousands of African men have improved their chance of reaching old age by 60 percent. This ancient Jewish ritual has proven to reduce the AIDS/HIV epidemic considerably, and Jewish Israeli expertise is transferring this public health tool to Africa. Now a new agreement with the United Nationsmakes Israel an official "contributing nation" to the UN's efforts to fight the deadly disease. Israel's Health and Foreign ministries will earmark an initial fund totaling $250,000 toward a special task force called UNAIDS.
The agreement was signed in April by Aharon Leshno Yaar, Israel's ambassador to UN institutions in Geneva, to battle an infectious disease that knows no political borders and has killed millions of people in Africa over the last 30 years. With lack of access to anti-viral medications, or refrigerators to keep the medication effective, African nations are overwhelmed by the rate of AIDS-related deaths, and the millions of orphans the virus has created.
This development exemplifies Israel's commitment to providing foreign aid, and also gives credence to the work of hundreds of Israeli volunteers who have been educating South Americans in AIDS prevention for more than two decades, mainly through picture flashcard kits innovated by the non-profit Jerusalem AIDS Project.
A history of helping
Dr. Inon Shenkar, director of the Jerusalem AIDS Project, says Israel's involvement dates from 1988, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs enlisted MASHAV, its center for international cooperation, to work with the organization to implement AIDS education in Latin America, starting with Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Peru, and later on Argentina and Brazil.
"Israel's Foreign Ministry paved the way for these countries to launch school-based education programs," Shenkar says, citing his organization's involvement in training according to the MASHAV model: Don't give the hungry fish, but the skills so they can fish for themselves. The programs became a resounding success, says Shenkar, and have become part of the national training programs in the respective countries.
Today, the Jerusalem AIDS Project is very active in Africa. While coordinated through the Israeli government, its work is made possible by donations. Shenkar says he is happy that the government has decided to fund the initiative in Africa, but millions more are needed to address the problem fully.
The Jerusalem AIDS Project has maintained its area of focus on education in African nations such as South Africa, Swaziland, Ethiopia and Uganda, and it recently ran a teacher training workshop in Myanmar.
What drives Shenkar is a desire to alleviate human suffering, but at the same time he is proud that the work of his organization helps to "rebrand Israel, to show we are much more than a country in conflict." Shenkar says he is constantly getting calls from backpackers asking for a copy of his flashcard kit. "They travel with it and do miracles," he says.
- Written by MFA
A nano 'nose' developed by an Israeli professor can detect and classify cancer, kidney disease and other serious ailments just by analyzing breath samples.
Within a few years, it will be possible to breathe into a portable medical device to find out if you have diseases such as cancer or kidney disease - and to determine its exact type so that doctors can better target treatment. This revolutionary non-invasive invention is the brainchild of a celebrated Israeli-Arab chemical engineer at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
Dubbed NA NOSE (for nano-artificial nose), Prof. Hossam Haick's device is in the early stages of being readied for commercialization through the Alfred Mann Institute of the Technion, a philanthropic fund to advance biomedical ideas originating at the university. Lab and clinical researchers are discovering wider applications for the product the more they test and fine-tune it.
The nose knows
Haick's "aha" moment was a conversation with two specialists who said that patients with diseased kidneys typically have ammonia-scented breath. For the past six years, he and his team have been perfecting an inexpensive sensor that sniffs out disease biomarkers passing from the bloodstream to the lungs and out through the breath.
Focusing first on lung cancer, the research earned Haick a 1.73 million-euro Marie Curie Excellence Award in 2006 and a 1.8 million-euro European Research Council Award in 2010. Now he is leading a European consortium of eight universities and companies to develop advanced screening nanosensors for lung cancer with the help of a 5.4 million-euro grant.
"This is at the research level," stresses Haick, who admits he works on the project "more than full time." It could take three or four years for NA-NOSE to reach the market, as it must go through rigorous procedures to gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration or the equivalent agencies in other countries.
In the meantime, the device keeps looking more promising, as Haick reported to the American Society of Clinical Oncology last fall and in the British Journal of Cancer in December last year. Beyond simply showing that someone has a disease, NA-NOSE can pinpoint the particulars. "In the last two years, we achieved good advances in discrimination between lung, prostate, breast and colorectal cancer and we have shown an ability to distinguish between head and neck cancers and lung cancers," says Haick.
If physicians know exactly what subtype of cancer is present, they can target treatments accordingly, resulting in fewer side effects and greater overall success. "In the case of breast cancer, we have shown that we can distinguish not just between sick and healthy women, but we can subcategorize between women with no tumors, malignant tumors and benign tumors," says Haick. "In addition, we have shown a correlation between genetic mutations of the cancer and volatile biomarkers that would appear in the exhaled breath. This also relates to targeted therapy, because genetic features distinguish among patients and help predict how they would respond to treatment."
Detecting kidney disease at earliest stage
Lung cancer and kidney disease both affect tens of millions of Americans and have typically poor outcomes due to late-stage detection. Haick's team has significant clinical data demonstrating NA-NOSE's ability to discriminate between different stages of kidney disease - and at a much earlier point than conventional technology.
Particularly when dealing with acute kidney disease resulting from injury or poisoning - where a patient can lose 50 to 60 percent of kidney function within days - NA-NOSE could guide physicians in slowing the progression before it's too late. "Our technology can detect kidney disease when the patient has lost approximately 5-10% of function, as opposed to conventional technology, which detects it when it is already at 50 or 60%," says Haick. "Especially with acute kidney disease, a difference of two days is quite significant for the treatment process."
Most studies have been done at the Technion in collaboration with Haifa's Rambam Health Care Campus and the Technion's Rappaport Medical School. The lung cancer study also has been carried out in collaboration with the University of Colorado.
Raised in Nazareth, internationally renowned
A product of Israel's northern Arab-Christian community in Nazareth, Haick was named one of 35 top scientists in the world in 2008 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review, and last year appeared on the Calcalist list of "Ten Most Promising Young Israeli Scientists" and the Jerusalem Post "Young Israelis of the Year" list.
The winner of more than 40 international prizes, Haick most recently received the Knight of the Order of Academic Palms from the French government, a respected civilian decoration established in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Educated in Israel, it was during post-doctorate studies at the California Institute of Technology that Haick first worked with electronic noses. He now lives in Haifa with his wife, a chemist and food engineer at the Israeli Ministry of Health
- Written by Cleantech
The 15th "Clean-tech" exhibition of the environment and clean technologies, will open in July at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds. The 15th "Cleantech" exhibition is considered to be an international breakthrough in the field and is putting on the public agenda issues of renewable energy, conservation and energy efficiency, dealing with the problem of water shortage, advanced recycling processes and green building.
Today the world faces two serious crises. The first is the increasing problem of water shortage, which, if not resolved, could lead to conflicts between states. The other crisis - global warming, which has already caused many natural disasters, will worsen and could lead to ecological disaster if changes are not made.
Developing the clean-tech industries will solve these two serious crises and in addition will bring economic growth to the world.
Israel runs the program "Israel NewTech" – a national program for promoting the water and energy technology industries and which aims at making Israel a world leader in these fields.
The 15th "Clean-tech" exhibition will this year focus on 4 key issues: Israel's transition to energy independence based on renewable energy development; dealing with the global water problem due to population growth and pollution of groundwater reservoirs; solutions and innovations in the field of energy conservation and greater energy efficiency in order to encourage green building, use of "grey" water etc; and the display of innovations in recycling water (in the context of groundwater pollution), paper products, glass, plastic and nylon in Israel and throughout the world.
Within the framework of the 15th "Clean-tech" exhibition, a special conference will take place on the environment and clean technologies, alongside a display of dozens of booths and innovations spread over 5,000 square meters. It is expected that hundreds of leading Israeli companies in the areas of clean-tech, including government agencies, environmental organizations, technological start-ups, venture capital funds and educational institutions active in the field will be displayed at the forthcoming exhibition.
The 15th "CleanTech" exhibition will be open on 5th-6th July 2011at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds.
To visit the exhibition website click here
- Written by Cleantech
The 15th annual CleanTech Expo in July will highlight Israel's solutions for the energy and water needs of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Among Bloomberg New Energy Finance's top 10 cleantech pioneers announced in April were two Israeli firms - the solar energy company BrightSource and the water monitoring company TaKaDu.
Water and sun: That's pretty much what is setting the stage for this summer's CleanTech 2011 conference. And what a place to do it - the sunny beach city of Tel Aviv. Those who follow industry trends know that the prominence of Israeli companies is so obvious that industry leaders like the Cleantech Forum have created special newsletter sections just to cover Israel.
Before "cleantech" had become the sexy industry brand that it is today, the Mashov publishing house in Israel was creating an agricultural magazine, and for the last 14 years had been presenting cleantech solutions in Tel Aviv to an annual audience. The company, which also runs and organizes Israel's annual agro fair, decided three years ago to step up business development opportunities and start promoting its annual event beyond local buyers.
This year, Mashov expects more than 25,000 visitors at the 15th annual CleanTech expo at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds, July 5-6. The two-day event will focus on renewable energy, water, green building, recycling and infrastructure - everything that can fit under the roof of the cleantech definition. There will be a distinct focus on "Big Four," or BRIC, countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Meeting the global village
In economic terms, BRIC countries are considered to be at the same stage of new and advancing economic development. Hoping to bypass the mistakes of the West, these countries are eager to learn how to do business in the cleantech sector and implement new technologies. "This year we decided to make BRIC countries the honored ones in terms of events and symposiums," says Shafrir Godel, the international affairs manager for the event. Other targeted opportunities such as R&D programs, business development and investment are to be addressed by ambassadors from these countries.
Israel, he stresses, will always be the priority at CleanTech exhibitions. But since the world is a global village, it pays to showcase foreign as well as Israeli companies, including about 10 startups.
A special water symposium with a guest host from the United States is expected to be a popular part of the expo, Godel believes, especially given the diversity and quantity of established and new Israeli companies in this sector.
The sun is one to watch
"Last year, our event was conquered by the solar industry, and it's one of the biggest sectors today," says Godel, who works as a consultant on behalf of Mashov.
In water technology, visitors can expect to see exhibitors providing industrial and municipal solutions such as purification technologies related to wastewater treatment and recycling. And there will be plenty of valves, pumps and meters, as these are still the foundation of the water business of today.
In renewable energy, opportunities in wind, solar, geothermal and hydro-electricity will be explored, as well as highlights and opportunities for Israeli feed-in tariffs in commercial and residential buildings crowned by solar photovoltaic apparatus.
And of course, many world investors are keen to know what Israel plans on doing with the natural gas resources that could change the face of energy consumption and delivery in Israel. Cleaner fuel and new technologies for transporting gas and oil will be explored, with the aim of leading to greener businesses and societies.