Scientists across Israel will be receiving portions of a $15 million gift to
develop solar energy and biofuels research, in a project overseen by the
Weizmann Institute of Science and the Technion- Israel Institute of
The funds come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley
Charitable Trust, established by Leona two years after her husband’s death and
eight years before her own, continuing the American couple’s lifetime of giving
to health and science.
Dispensed over the course of three years, the
$15m. will fund the work of scientists developing renewable energy from a
variety of fields, initially focusing on biofuels, photovoltaics and optics for
light harvesting, according to information from the Weizmann
Jointly heading the entire project will be Weizmann’s Prof.
David Cahen and the Technion’s Prof. Gideon Grader.
different types of biofuels research will be the generation of effective methods
for breaking down plant matter into useable resources, the development of algae
as an economical fuel provider and the growth of plants that can sustainably
provide materials for conversion to biofuels, the Weizmann Institute
In order to catalyze this research, the Helmsley Trust will help
build state-of-the art facilities for biofuels development at the
The photovoltaics and optics portions of the research will aim
to create new materials that can harness a larger portion of the sun’s energy,
as today’s solar cells can only use a limited part of the sun’s light, according
to the Weizmann Institute. Critical to this research will be new, cuttingedge
tools from the plasmonics, nanostructures and metamaterials sciences. In
addition to developing the new materials themselves, researchers will also be
determining improved methods for efficiently converting solar energy into
electricity, the institute said.
While many researchers benefiting from
the funds will be from the Weizmann Institute’s Alternative Energy Research
Initiative and the Grand Technion Energy Program, there will also be scientists
from the Centers of Research Excellence and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
participating in the joint venture.
“Alternative energy is one of the
most important, as well as one of the most exciting fields of research today,”
Cahen said. “With this grant from the Helmsley Trust, we hope to attract bright,
innovative researchers and students to the field. We know that a whole array of
energy options will be needed to replace today’s non-renewable and polluting
fossil fuels; all of our present efforts are essential to ensure our energy