University of Michigan, Israeli University announce first joint research grant recipients

Wednesday, January 08, 2014
Amy Mast

Three pairs of researchers will be reaching across an ocean this year to spark collaborative energy projects with the receipt of University of Michigan – Ben Gurion University of the Negev Collaboration on Energy Research grants.

The catch? The projects have to feature a research team from each university, working jointly on projects related to global energy security. Teams could choose to focus on one of three topics: photovoltaics and solar technology, liquid fuels and engine combustion, or thermoelectricity, materials, and devices.

The $160,000, two-year grants, funded on the University of Michigan side by the University of Michigan Office of Research and the Energy Institute, are intended to jointly fund research proposals related to energy. Despite the six thousand miles separating them, both universities have common and complementary expertise in energy-related science and technology. This program is intended to develop and foster joint research activities between the two schools, generating projects from which the two may jointly pursue follow-on funding and commercialization of the work.

Dubi/ Reddy collaboration: Pushing the limits of energy conversion in molecular junctions

Energy conversion is the process of turning one type of energy into another kind; for example, turning light or heat into electricity. In this collaboration, Yonatan Dubi of BGU and Sangi Reddy of U-M, long admirers of one another’s work, will combine elements of their respective research to energy conversion in molecular junctions, exploring ways to more efficiently convert temperature differences into electricity. In Israel, Dubi’s group will prepare theoretical and numerical calculations which Reddy’s group will put to the experimental test in Ann Arbor.

Golan/ Phillips collaboration: Exploring the potential of quantum dot solar cells

Solar power captures the imagination as very few other renewable energy initiatives can, but the reality of capturing the sun’s energy- both efficiently and at a low cost- remains elusive.  A typical homeowner’s solar panels operate at between 10 and 20% efficiency. With their grant, Yuval Golan, of BGU, and Jamie Phillips, of U-M, aim to explore the theoretical and experimental hurdles to exceeding the Shockley-Queisser limit of 33.7% efficiency, the thermodynamic limit for solar energy conversion in homogeneous materials.

Savage/ Landau collaboration: A new approach to exploring algae as biofuel

Algae has long been held forth as a promising source of liquid fuel, but the process of converting this oily, energy-rich plant into usable fuel is still inefficient and costly. Phillip Savage of U-M and Miron Landau of BGU are collaborating on a project aimed at converting algae directly into a crude oil equivalent through catalysis. If successful, this process would prove less capital intensive and more cost effective than gasification- the process of removing water from algae by heating it until it turns into a gas, then converting it back into a liquid fuel. In this collaboration, the BGU team will create catalysts and the U-M team will use them to process crude bio-oil.

Energy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

BGU strives to strengthen its national and international profile as a renowned institution in renewable and alternative energy R&D by promoting advanced fundamental research and searching for potential applications through recruitment of excellent researchers in relevant fields, increased R&D budgets, enhanced national and international cooperation and improved research infrastructure. Furthermore, BGU develops specific undergraduate and graduate multidisciplinary programs in diverse areas of energy. BGU plays a pivotal role in strengthening the green approach to energy through its public initiatives like the green campus. 

Energy at the University of Michigan Energy Institute

The demand for economically and environmentally sound energy solutions is urgent and global. At the Energy Institute, we build on the University of Michigan’s strong energy research heritage at the heart of the nation’s automotive and manufacturing industries to develop and integrate science, technology and policy solutions to pressing energy challenges. The Energy Institute is a division of the U-M Office of Research (UMOR), which holds central responsibility for nurturing excellence in research, scholarship and creative activity across the entire campus.

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