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The Solar Fuels

Fullfilling the promise of the Sun

Our global future will be affected by our ability to create scientific and technological solutions to unlock new sources and methods of renewable energy. In Israel, regional instability is threatening energy sources and the cost of conventional fuels is multiplied.

Here, at the Solar Fuels I-CORE, top Israeli scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science have joined forces to create a synergy of expertise in order to generate clean, efficient energy from renewable sources. In addition, the Solar Fuels I-CORE is an Israeli multidisciplinary task force attracting returning Israeli energy scientists from across the world.

Through intense research, world-class facilities, a dynamic agenda of educational and outreach programs and global collaboration, the Solar FueIs I-CORE team is passionate about fulfilling the promise of paving the road towards a sustainable future for all humanity.

Solar Fuels I-core

The Solar Fuels Israeli Center of Research Excellence (I-CORE) is an initiative of the government of Israel to generate innovative solutions for the sustainable production of liquid fuels.

Recruiting the expertise of 26 top Israeli scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, and the Weizmann Institute of Science, the multidisciplinary team is active in basic and applied research to advance the conversion and storage of solar energy into liquid fuels. The Solar Fuels I-CORE team is led by Prof. Gideon Grader, head of the Grand Technion Energy Program (GTEP), together with the Solar Fuels I-CORE Scientific Management.

The Solar Fuels I-CORE is a powerful magnet to 10 excelling young Israeli researchers returning from abroad. Incorporating world-class researchers in the field of energy and world-class infrastructure at Israel’s leading universities, our I-CORE is positioned to fulfill the promise of solar & eclipse lunaire, while playing a powerful role in educating the generations of tomorrow.

Israel and the Energy Challenge

Our modern life depends on energy. With depleting oil reserves and soaring prices, world scientists and decision makers have prioritized the development of new energy sources as essential for the survival of future generations.

As the planet’s infinite energy resource, the sun offers direct power and the means to generate fuels. The scientific race is on to make these processes more efficient, competitive and effective.

In Israel, the cost of conventional fuels is multiplied, with regional instability threatening energy sources. In 2011, Israel put renewable energy sources high on the national agenda with the establishment of a nationwide multidisciplinary center of excellence to meet the scientific challenges of solar fuels.

Top Israeli scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, and the Weizmann Institute of Science have teamed up with a cutting edge strategy to meet the global energy needs of tomorrow under the Solar Fuels I-CORE.

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Solar Team Members

Prof. Gideon Grader
Scientific Director
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Chemical Engineering

Prof. Moti Herskowitz
Scientific Management Member
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Chemical Engineering

Prof. Ed Bayer
Scientific Management Member
Weizmann Institute of Science
Biological Chemistry

Prof. Sammy Boussiba
Scientific Management Member
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands

Prof. Avraham (Avi) Levy
Scientific Management Member
Weizmann Institute of Science
Plant Sciences

Prof. Avner Rothschild
Scientific Management Member
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Materials Science and Engineering

Prof. Noam Adir
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Chemistry

Prof. Asaph Aharoni
Weizmann Institute of Science
Plant Sciences

Assistant Prof. Lilac Amirav
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Chemistry

Assistant Prof. Roee Amit
Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Biotechnology and Food Engineering

Assistant Prof. Simon Barak
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands

Prof. Naama Barkai
Weizmann Institute of Science
Molecular Genetics

Assistant Prof. Maya Bar Sadan
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Chemistry

Prof. Ezra Bar-Ziv
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
ElectroOptics Engineering

Prof. Oded Beja
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Biology

Assistant Prof. Ronen Berkovich
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Chemical Engineering

Assistant Prof. Maytal Caspary Toroker
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Materials Science and Engineering

Prof. Avihai Danon
Weizmann Institute of Science
Plant Sciences

Prof. Gad Galili
Weizmann Institute of Science
Plant Sciences

Assistant Prof. Oz Gazit
Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Chemical Engineering

Prof. Shimon Gepstein
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Biology

Prof. Roy Kishony
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Biology

Assistant Prof. Ilana Kolodkin-Gal
Weizmann Institute of Science
Molecular Genetics

Prof. Miron V. Landau
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Chemical Engineering

Prof. Naftali Lazarovitch
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands

Assistant Prof. Galia Maayan
Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Chemistry

Prof. Ronny Neumann
Weizmann Institute of Science
Organic Chemistry

Assistant Prof. Avi Niv
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Solar Energy and Environmental Physics

Assistant Prof. Dror Noy
Migal - Galilee Research Institute
Plant Sciences

Prof. Yaron Paz
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Chemical Engineering

Prof. Moshe Sagi
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands

Prof. Avigdor Scherz
Weizmann Institute of Science
Plant Sciences

Prof. Gadi Schuster
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Biology

Prof. Moshe Sheintuch
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Chemical Engineering

Prof. Yuval Shoham
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Biotechnology and Food Engineering

Prof. Ira A. Weinstock
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Chemistry

Ms. Merav Miller
Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Chemical Engineering

Research

he Solar Fuels I-CORE is empowered by a spectrum of disciplines and incorporates scientists from Israel’s top universities.

Research expertise includes: biology, biotechnology, biophysics, chemical engineering, chemistry, computational biology, genetics, genomics, metabolomics and materials engineering.

The Solar Fuels I-CORE research directions include biomass generation; solar water splitting technology as well as CO2 reduction, and the exploration of how molecular building blocks such as H2, CO, CO2, methanol and ethanol can be converted into larger, liquid fuel molecules.

Targeted future energy sources include:

The fuels will be derived from:

ICORE-V21-process-flow-sheet-Web-Final.png

The novelty of this strategy is based on the discovery of new key genes and on the engineering of new metabolic pathways that can be used to develop plants and algae suited to biofuel production.

The I-CORE team is combining the rational design of metabolic pathways with screening for unexplored natural biodiversity better suited for biomass production in dryland areas and in conventional agriculture.

The research is focusing on the following procedures:

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This range of highly specialized research activities is supported and enabled by state-of-the-art infrastructure at the three partnering universities.

Bio Sources - Energy - Biomass

Research Group

Ben Gurion University:

Prof. Sammy Boussiba (Head), Dr. Simon Barak, Prof. Naftali Lazarovitch,

Prof. Moshe Sagi

Weizmann Institute:

Prof. Avi Levy (Head), Prof. Asaph Aharoni, Prof. Avihai Danon, Prof. Gad Galili,

Prof. Avigdor Scherz

Technion:

Prof. Shimon Gepstein

Mission

The research group is exploiting recent advances in metabolomics, genetics, genomics and agrotechniques to develop plants, algae and cyanobacteria (genetically selected or engineered) for the large-scale production (under conventional or dryland growth conditions) of energy-rich biomass as a biofuel feedstock.

Scientific Background

The advantages of biofuels over fossil fuel are that they are renewable and that the photosynthetic organisms that produce them fix the carbon emitted upon combustion. Large-scale production of biofuel is hindered, however, by several problems and limitations (e.g., the need for genetic adaptation, the lack of arable land, competition with food crops, pollution, water availability, and global warming).

These problems can be overcome in a number of ways:

Recent advances in the fields of metabolomics, genomics, and robotics, together with the unique biodiversity available in Israel and new farming methods, creates the promise of the economically viable production of energy-rich biomass and hence of biofuel.

The Objectives

The overall goal is to develop novel platforms for energy-rich biomass production.

The specific objectives are:

(1) The analysis and design of metabolic pathways to engineer and optimize photosynthetic organisms whose biomass can serve as energy-rich feedstock for biofuel production.

(2) The development of plants efficient in biomass yield and optimized for biofuel production under normal conditions or on drylands, using natural biodiversity resources, genetics, genomics, and genetically engineered species.

(3) The identification and engineering of microalgae effective in oil production.

(4) The development of optimal sustainable cultivation technologies for plants and algae for large-scale biofuel feedstock production under normal, dry, saline and high temperature environments.

Expected Results

(1) New methods for carbohydrates and lipids analysis and screening

(2) Engineered plants, algae and cyanobacteria with new metabolic pathways for biofuel production

(3) New genes for metabolic engineering and for growth under extreme conditions

(4) New methods for large-scale algal production

(5) Cultivation of endemic species and ecosystems for high biomass production in drylands.

Rust 2 Gold

Research Group

Technion:

Prof. Avner Rothschild (Head), Prof. Yaron Paz, Prof. Gadi Schuster,

Prof. Noam Adir, Dr. Lilac Amirav, Dr. Galia Maayan, Dr. Maytal Caspary Toroker

Ben Gurion University:

Dr. Maya Bar-Sadan, Prof. Ira Weinstock, Dr. Avi Niv

Weizmann Institute:

Prof. Ronny Neumann

Migal:

Dr. Dror Noy

Mission

The group is researching the efficient and cost-effective direct conversion of solar energy into H2, CO and O2 through photoelectrolytic and photocatalytic water splitting and CO2 reduction. The products – H2, CO and O2 – will be used to produce liquid fuels.

Scientific Background

The development of methods for storing solar energy in high-energy chemical products is crucial for the large-scale deployment of solar energy and this is considered one of the greatest scientific and technological challenges of this century.

Using water and CO2 as feedstock chemicals, this process has proven its applicability in sustaining life on earth for more than 2.5 billion years through oxygenic photosynthesis. However, natural photosynthesis far less efficient than man-made photovoltaic or solar-thermal technologies, and the end products - sugars and other types of biomass - are unsuitable for direct industrial application, requiring thermochemical, catalytic or biochemical processing to convert them to useful fuel.

This group is investigating an alternative route for the production of solar fuels by means of direct water splitting into H2 and O2, CO2 splitting into CO and O2, and reduction of CO2 with water yielding CO or methanol. H2 is an essential ingredient in the production of liquid fuels, either by reaction with CO2 or in the various hydro-treating processes of oils.

Similarly, CO can also be reacted further with H2O to produce H2 via the water-gas shift reaction. O2 produced in these processes can be used for oxy-gasification of the biomass to produce H2 and CO that will be further converted into liquid fuels.

Construction of an effective system requires the development of the appropriate catalytic components for the anodic (water oxidation) and cathodic (CO2 or proton reduction) reactions, as well as their integration and coupling with an efficient solar energy harvesting system that will provide the necessary driving force for the process.

Objectives

This group is developing efficient and cost-effective technologies for solar-induced water splitting and CO2 reduction.

The products – H2, CO and O2 – will be used to produce liquid fuels. Considering the low efficiency and high cost of state-of-the-art technologies for solar-induced water splitting and CO2 reduction, it is clear that innovative approaches are necessary to overcome the complex difficulties involved. The group addresses this challenge by carrying out basic and applied multidisciplinary research in chemistry, biology, physics and materials science that will lead to the rational design of complex systems that combine semiconductor photoelectrodes together with inorganic, organic and biological photocatalysts. The synergy between different photosystems will be used to overcome the intrinsic limitations of individual components and achieve efficient conversion of solar energy to fuels. Towards this end, the research aims to achieve the following specific objectives:

(1) The development of stable photoelectrodes for water splitting

(2) The development of organic and inorganic synthetic catalysts for water oxidation and reduction

(3) The development of biological photocatalysts for water oxidation suitable for coupling with electrode materials and synthetic nano-catalysts

(4) The Integration of water oxidation and reduction photocatalysts with semiconductor photoelectrodes into multicomponent systems for efficient water splitting

(5) The development of organic, inorganic and hybrid catalysts for overall water splitting

(6) The development of organic, inorganic and hybrid catalysts for the reduction of CO2 with water

(7) The development of tunable antennae for light harvesting and energy coupling, via plasmonic modes, to drive photochemical reactions

(8) The scale-up of complete systems for water splitting and CO2 reduction and test them in the field.

Expected Results

This research will enable rational design of efficient and cost-effective systems for solar-induced water splitting and CO2 reduction that meets the following targets:

(1) Stable photo electrodes modified with organic or inorganic catalysts that achieve water-splitting photocurrent densities of 8 mA/cm2 (or higher) at the reversible water oxidation and reduction potentials; this corresponds to photo electrolysis efficiency of 10% (or higher)

(2) Water splitting tandem cells achieving solar to hydrogen conversion efficiency of 5% (or higher)

(3) Photoelectrolytic cells based on biological photocatalysts achieving solar to hydrogen conversion efficiency of 1% (or higher)

(4) Photocatalytic splitting of CO2 to CO and O2 and photoreduction of CO2 with H2O under visible light with a quantum efficiency of 5% using abundant transition metal based compounds

(5) Nano-textured antennae for light harvesting in different spectral ranges that couple photon energy to surface plasmons and transfer the energy to drive water oxidation and CO2 reduction reactions.

Plant Power

Research Group

Ben Gurion University:

Prof. Ezra Bar-Ziv (Head), Prof.Moti Herskowitz

Mission

This group is working on generating the non-catalytic conversion of low-grade biomass of any type into a mixture of H2 and CO2 that will serve as a feedstock for liquid fuel production by a catalytic process.

Scientific Background

Gasification is conventionally perceived as converting carbonaceous materials into syngas (H2-CO mixture), which is used to produce liquid fuel through the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process. However, a recent study has found that the FT processes are inefficient (they require too much work in the gasifier and the FT reactor) and suggests that using H2-CO2 mixtures instead of syngas for liquid fuel production requires much less work, making the liquid fuel production more efficient.

Gasification is a two-stage process comprising:

(1) Pyrolysis of the feedstock into pyrolysis gas and char and

(2) Conversion of the latter into a gaseous mixture.

Both stages are endothermic, requiring the heat obtained from partial oxidation of the feedstock. Oxy-gasification is superior to air-driven gasification in that the efficiency is higher; the gas-phase equilibrium occurs instantly due to high temperatures and long residence times in the reactor; and the mixture produced does not contain nitrogen; but its disadvantage is in the necessity to separate oxygen from air. However, recent membrane separation methods for air have made this route particularly attractive for small systems such as those anticipated for biomass conversions. Oxygen produced by water splitting systems can be used as a cheap source of oxygen. At present, there is little information on the coupled fluid-dynamic/chemical-kinetic system required for biomass oxy-gasification to produce H2-CO2 mixtures, and this lack of knowledge will be addressed within the framework of the I-CORE.

Objectives

The goal is biomass oxy-gasification that will non-catalytically convert low-grade biomass into H2-CO2 mixtures, which will serve as the feedstock for liquid fuel production by a catalytic process.

The specific goals are to investigate:

(1) The kinetics of pyrolysis of various types of biomass and biomass residues after extraction of oils or sugars

(2) The kinetics of oxy-combustion of the biomass

(3) The conversion pyrolysis gas with steam to CO2-H2 mixtures

Expected Results

(1) A kinetic model of the oxy-gasification of biomass into CO2-H2 mixtures

(2) A technology based on a pulverized-fuel, entrained-flow approach for the production of CO2-H2 mixtures

(3) Criteria for up-scaling the technique by a factor of 100, from the present 50–100 kW gasifier, to commercial size.

Sugar 2 Ethanol

Research Group

Technion:

Prof. Yuval Shoham (Head), Prof. Oded Beja, Dr. Roee Amit, Prof. Roy Kishony

Weizmann Institute:

Prof. Ed Bayer (Head), Prof. Naama Barkai, Dr. Ilana Kolodkin-Gal

Mission

This group is researching the use of novel microbial and enzymatic systems for the efficient hydrolysis of biomass to soluble sugars en route to biofuels, e.g., ethanol.

Scientific Background

The main scientific challenge in transforming biomass to liquid fuel is the efficient (economic) degradation of plant matter, in particular cellulose, to soluble sugars that can be fermented to liquid biofuels. Despite the substantial resources allocated for this goal, the development of novel enzymatic or microbial systems for hydrolyzing biomass has been somewhat slow. The main barrier to biomass degradation is the inherent recalcitrance of the cellulosic substrates, and the major bottleneck in this process is the current high cost of cellulolytic enzyme production. Three-dimensional structure determination of these enzymes, together with extensive biochemical analysis, will provide functional information for an in-depth understanding of the mechanism(s) of catalysis. It is clear that this challenge also requires a combination of "omic" and synthetic approaches that will help to improve enzyme performance.

Objectives

The strategic objective of this project is to design enzymatic and microbial systems with improved functionalities that will facilitate economical conversion of biomass into soluble sugars for yeast-mediated production of bioethanol.

The specific objectives are:

(1) To elucidate structure-function relationships of selected carbohydrate active enzymes that synergistically deconstruct cellulose and associated polysaccharides into soluble sugars

(2) To explore natural microbial systems involved in biomass degradation

(3) To isolate and characterize novel biomass-degrading enzymes from nature by using metagenomic approaches

(4) To utilize cocktails of these enzymes, cellulosomes and designer cellulosomes for biomass conversion

(5) To apply directed evolution and genetic engineering approaches for new types of biomass-degrading enzymes

(6) To develop yeast optimized for biofuel production through pulling from natural biodiversity, by using genetics, genomics, and genetically engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells.

Expected Results

(1) Novel enzymes and enzyme complexes geared for efficient biomass degradation

(2) Insights into the microbial relationships in natural microbial systems involved in biomass degradation

(3) Superior yeast strains for ethanol production.

2B Renewed

Research Group

Ben Gurion University:

Prof. Moti Herskowitz (Head), Prof. Miron V. Landau, Dr. Ronen Berkovich

Technion:

Prof. Gideon Grader, Prof. Moshe Sheintuch, Dr. Oz Gazit

Mission

The group is researching the development of catalysts and catalytic processes for the sustainable and environmentally friendly production of liquid fuels from a variety of feedstock materials, produced by the four other groups.

Scientific Background

Conversion of CO2 and H2 into liquid fuels: The basic renewable feedstocks, water, CO2 and solar energy, are transformed to biomass by natural photosynthesis or to H2 and CO by artificial photosynthesis. Additional raw materials – H2, CO, and CO2 – are obtained by the thermal treatment of biomass. In this group, the raw materials H2, CO and CO2 will constitute the feedstock for the production of liquid fuels by catalytic processes. While there is extensive literature on production of fuels from syngas (CO+H2), the production process for liquid fuels from CO2+H2 is only just emerging.

The main challenge here is to develop catalytic processes that are technologically viable, sustainable, and environmentally acceptable.

In particular, there is a need for a highly efficient process for conversion of CO2 and H2 in one step into liquid hydrocarbons at >90% yield, since CO2 is a major component of biomass gasification and since significant amounts of CO2 are available for recycling at power stations. The key to overcoming this challenge lies in the development of highly active and selective catalytic materials. Iron offers the most promising basis for the development of efficient catalysts for this process. Although FexC carbide active phases have excellent potential, current understanding of CO2 hydrogenation on Fe-based catalysts is limited, and this has strongly inhibited the development of this field.

The Blechner group has developed an integrated catalytic system for direct CO2/H2 synthesis of C6+ hydrocarbons. In this system, which comprises Fe0/FeCx core-shell nanoparticles or a Fe0/FeCx nanoparticles assembly, metallic iron Fe0 exists in equilibrium with FexC and FexO; thus the active surface consists of Fe0 and FeCx. The Fe0 part of the surface is responsible for H2 → 2Hads dissociation, and the surface defects (i.e., low coordination surface Fe0 atoms) are responsible for C-O bond dissociation and formation and stabilization of CHx monomers for further polymerization to higher hydrocarbons. The limitations of these heterogeneous catalysts lie in the high temperatures required and the low stability of bulk carbide phases due to sintering of nanocrystals. It is believed that these limitations can be overcome by incorporating them into nanofiber supports that will be prepared by the Grader group using their expertise in sol-gel technology and electrospinning of ceramic and metal nanofibers. Similar effects of sintering prevention were observed in entrapped silver catalyst for the partial methanol oxidation (PMO) to formaldehyde. Preliminary results obtained at the Blechner Center indicate that the use of FexC nanostructured catalytic materials could provide high selectivity to C2+ hydrocarbons at CO2 conversions of ≥30%. CO evolved from artificial photosynthesis can be efficiently converted to a CO2/H2 mixture in a commercial reverse water gas shift process. This mixture will be utilized in the production of fuels with efficient Fe-carbide based catalyst as described above. In parallel, the CO/CO2/H2 mixture will be converted to methanol/ethanol using a novel catalyst developed at the Technion. This will be followed by production of gasoline in a commercial MTG process (methanol) or in a novel condensation-dehydration process (ethanol) developed at BGU.

Production of “Drop-In” Fuels from Non-Food Oils: This development is motivated by the fact that first generation vegetable oils produced from biomass, e.g., biodiesel, cannot be used as “drop-in” fuels (a mixture of hydrocarbons) for transportation. The Blechner group will pursue three routes for deoxygenation (DOx) of bio-oils containing organic oxygen: decarboxylation (removal of CO2), decarbonylation (removal of CO) and hydrodeoxygenation (removal of water). Catalytic materials for efficient DOx processes require transition metals combined with proper surface acidity. To prevent deactivation of the catalysts, operation under hydrogen pressure is necessary. Thus, to increase the DOx efficiency hydro-decarbonylation/hydro-decarboxylation routes that compete with hydrodeoxygenation are used. Formation of heavy solid paraffins (C16–C18) with high melting points is prevented with nanocrystalline zeolite materials with optimal acidity Catalyst Design. The design of the catalysts will be guided by theoretical and computational studies using density functional theory (DFT) and molecular-dynamics (MD) approaches. The Scheintuch group is experienced in such computations. This approach was recently applied to compare multiple solutions domains during CO oxidation on Pt, Pd, Ir , Rh and Ru, and currently the group is studying the processes associated with H2 production from methane [steam reforming (SR), CH4 + H2O →CO + 3H2 and the water gas shift (WGS) reaction, CO + H2O → CO2 + H2 on Fe, Cu, Ni, Co, Rh, Pt[.

Reactor Design: Once a proper catalyst is selected, the reverse WGS reaction poses several problems of reactor design:

(1) Reaction conversion is expedited by excess hydrogen, but only a small conversion of hydrogen is achieved

(2) Equilibrium limited reactions where conversion can be enhanced by water separation

(3) Reactions are exothermic and reversible, requiring ingenious approaches for enthalpy recuperation and for establishing temperature profiles. Some of these issues can be solved by incorporating selective membranes for separation or by using adsorbents. Conversion enhancement of CO2+H2 reactions will be achieved by incorporation of water-selective silico-alumina or zeolitic membranes. Hydrogen-selective membranes will enable operation at excess H2, and separation of H2 without cooling the stream. It will also enable H2 production from water and CO (from photocatalytic CO2 reduction) in the WGS reaction.

Objectives

The major goals are twofold:

(1) To convert CO2 and H2 into a range of liquid fuels by direct hydrogenation of CO2 to fuels or to materials such as methanol (that can be converted to gasoline by the MTG process)

(2) To develop novel catalytic processes for deoxygenation, isomerization and mild cracking of heavy paraffins from non-food oils to produce high-quality “drop-in” green diesel and jet fuel with minimum hydrogen consumption. These aims will be accomplished by the preparation of novel catalysts, based on methods developed at the Blechner Center and at the Technion, followed by characterization of the catalysts and testing in lab reactors.

Expected Results

(1) The conversion of a mixture of CO2 and H2 to hydrocarbons at selectivity of >90% to C2+ and catalyst stability of >250 h on stream.

(2) The conversion of non-food vegetable oils to green diesel and jet fuel at LHSV≥1 h-1, selectivity of ≥ 80% and catalyst stability of > 500 h on stream with ≤ 15 g of hydrogen/kg of product.

(3) The development of highly efficient iron-based catalysts on a nanofiber matrix by coupling sol-gel and electrospinning technologies.

(4) The development of a methodology for predicting the rates of reactions of interest, using DFT and MD tools and applying it for the most promising catalysts for WGS, reverse WGS and ethanol production reactions.

(5) The construction and testing of a lab-scale reactor, incorporating water-selective and hydrogen-selective membranes, that enable high-conversion CO2+H2 reactions (e.g., reverse WGS and ethanol production) using excess hydrogen. The results will be used for process design and economic evaluation.

Education

As part of its impact on the advancement of world research into solar power, the Solar Fuels I-CORE is embracing its role as a national educator in energy issues.

As such, the Solar Fuels I-CORE is promoting a wide spectrum of teaching programs in energy fields, and specialized training of researchers, students and engineers.

To raise public awareness, the I-CORE’s activity includes joint participation in national and international conferences and workshops; global student exchange; the development of innovative university courses in energy fields; and the mobilization of Israeli high-schools through dynamic outreach initiatives.

Glossary

B

BIO FUELS
BIODIVERSITY
BIOMASS

C

CATALYTIC MATERIAL

E

ETHANOL

F

FEEDSTOCK
FERMENTATION
FOSSIL FUELS

M

METABOLIC PATHWAYS

P

PHOTOELECTROLYSIS
PHOTOSYNTHESIS

S

SEMICONDUCTOR-MEDIATED PHOTOCATALYSIS
SOLAR FUELS
SOLUBLE SUGARS

W

WATER SPLITTING

B

BIO FUELS

Biofuels are solid, liquid or gaseous fuel, that are derived from biomass. The biomass is usually processed or converted in some way into a more convenient form, which is the biofuel, principally to increase energy density. This may involve physical pre-processing simply to cut it into more manageable pieces or reduce the moisture content, or may involve thermal or chemical processing to convert it into a solid, liquid or gas. Biofuels are one of the green alternatives to fossil fuels.

BIODIVERSITY

Biodiversity reflects the number, variety and variability of living organisms. It includes diversity within species, between species, and among ecosystems. The concept also covers how this diversity changes from one location to another and over time. The promotion of biofuel production might accelerate global species loss because it encourages the conversion of pasture, savanna and forests into new cropland.

BIOMASS

Biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms. In the context of biomass for energy this is often used to mean plant based material, but biomass can equally apply to both animal and vegetable derived material. Biomass is carbon based and is composed of a mixture of organic molecules containing hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and also small quantities of other atoms. Some examples for biomass for energy: wood, energy crops (high yield crops grown specifically for energy applications), agricultural residues, food waste.

C

CATALYTIC MATERIAL

Catalytic material is a substance that will change the rate of a chemical reaction. Unlike other reagents that participate in the chemical reaction, a catalyst is not consumed by the reaction itself (although it might be inhibited, deactivated, or destroyed by secondary processes).

Catalysts can be either heterogeneous or homogeneous, depending on whether a catalyst exists in the same phase as the substrate. Biocatalysts (enzymes) are often seen as a separate group.

E

ETHANOL

Also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol. Ethanol is widely used as fuel, especially in Brazil which has the largest national fuel ethanol industry. Ethanol as a fuel reduces harmful car motor emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, and other ozone-forming pollutants. Ethanol is commercially produced from corn or sugar cane.

F

FEEDSTOCK

The raw materials used for the production in an industrial process. The feedstock for ethanol fuel production is crops such as corn in the US, sugarcane in Brazil and cassava in tropical regions. In modern industrial processes, 0.42 liter of ethanol can be produced from a kilogram of corn.

FERMENTATION

Fermentation is the process in which sugars are transferred to ethanol with the release of CO2. Ethanol fermentation occurs in the production of alcoholic beverages and ethanol fuel, and in the rising of bread dough. Yeast fermentation of various carbohydrate products is used to produce much of the ethanol used for fuel.

FOSSIL FUELS

Fossil fuels are formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth's crust (or by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition) over millions of years. Thus fossil fuels are non-renewable resources.

Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon and include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. At present, most of the world's energy supply comes from fossil sources, although mankind is increasingly facing issues of resource limitation, environmental pollution and problems such as global warming.

M

METABOLIC PATHWAYS

A series of individual chemical reactions in a living system/organism that combine to perform one or more important functions. The product of one reaction in a pathway serves as the substrate for the following reaction. The production of biofuels can be designed using naturally occurring enzymes that, when integrated with metabolic pathways for biofuel precursors will enable the biosynthesis of advanced biofuels in engineered host microbes.

P

PHOTOELECTROLYSIS

Photoelectrolysis occurs in a photoelectrochemical cell when light is used for electrolysis. In other words, photoelectrolysis is the conversion of light into an electric current that will drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction. Photoelectrolysis can potentially of divide water to hydrogen and oxygen (water splitting).

PHOTOSYNTHESIS

Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria. In plants, algae, and cyanobacteria, photosynthesis uses carbon dioxide and water, releasing oxygen as a waste product. Photosynthesis is vital for all aerobic life on Earth, as it maintain normal levels of oxygen in the atmosphere and is the source of energy for nearly all life on earth.

S

SEMICONDUCTOR-MEDIATED PHOTOCATALYSIS

Absorption of photons in a semiconductor particle may result in the generation of electron-hole pairs. A process, by which these photogenerated carriers separate and migrate of to the surface to promote chemical reactions with various substances, is referred to as photocatalysis. Semiconductor-mediated photocatalysis presents an attractive and promising solution for both renewable energy generation and other environmental applications, such as water treatment and air purification. Examples are the solar-driven photocatalytic splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen, and the reaction of water and carbon dioxide (CO2 reduction), which provide potentially clean and renewable fuels.

SOLAR FUELS

Solar-to-fuel energy conversion alleviates the energy storage problem, since fuel (chemical energy) can be stored more easily than either electricity or heat.

SOLUBLE SUGARS

In order to produce ethanol by fermentation, it is essential to extract the soluble sugars from the feedstock such as sugar-canes. A pre-treatment step to break down the cellulose and hemi-cellulose in the plants is required and adds to the feedstock cost. The extraction of soluble sugars from the raw materials can be performed either by an enzymatic approach or by a catalytic approach.

W

WATER SPLITTING

Water splitting is the general term for a chemical reaction in which water is separated into oxygen and hydrogen. Efficient and economical water splitting would be a key technology component of a hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is considered by many to be a promising energy currency, particularly for the transportation sector and for mobile devices. The combustion of hydrogen yields water as its only waste product, and hydrogen is a perfect fuel for fuel cells.

Media

Gil Eshel awarded prestigious President of the State of Israel grant
15/07/2014, from BGU Website

Disciplinary science as a limitation (in Hebrew)
Spring 2014, from the Technion Magazine

Nano Power
06/03/2014, from Technion Website

Israel makes an ambitious move on alternative fuels
March, 2014, from MRS BULLETIN

Academic Revolution, Spearheaded by the Technion (in Hebrew)
30/12/2013, from Technion Website

Israeli researchers at BGU develop revolutionary alternative fuel process
17/11/2013 / 13/11/2013, from The Times of Israel

Researchers from BGU developed a green alternative for fossil fuel (in Hebrew)
17/11/2013, from BGU website

When Rust Meets Light (in Hebrew)
Winter 2013, from the Technion Magazine

Chips may replace corn for harvesting solar fuels
07/2013, from Physics Today

An interview with Prof. Avner Rothschild on Renewable Energy (Hebrew)
15/06/2013, from Alachson (Diagonal)

I-CORE: Technion & National Scientific Leadership
12/03/2013, from TechnionLive

Resonant Light Trapping in Ultrathin Films for Water Splitting
11/11/2012, from Nature Materials

New Way to Split Water Molecules Into Hydrogen and Oxygen: Breakthrough for Solar Energy Conversion and Storage?
12/11/2012, from Science Daily

Review: An Economic Perspective on Liquid Solar Fuels
29/08/2012, from Journal of The Electrochemical Society

The Israeli Brain Keeps Inventing Patents (Hebrew)
13/3/2012, from NRG-MAARIV

The Team Headed by Prof. Gideon Grader from the Technion Won the Renewable Energy Research Center of Exellence (Hebrew)
30/06/2011, from Hayadan

The Technion Will Lead the Establishment of Research Center of Exellence in Renewable Energy (Hebrew)
29/06/2011, from The Marker