Young Israeli Innovators Win NASA Competition For Great Innovations

Three Israeli innovators are among 80 people worldwide to be awarded a scholarship to a prestigious graduate program at NASA’s Silicon Valley campus.

Published: April 18th 2011
in News » Israel

The three winners with Rona Ramon and the Dalit Laufer

The winners of the competition “Portzey Derech,” Breakthroughers in Hebrew, of the Ramon Foundation in Israel, Hillel Mishal, Tzvika Oron and Omri Yafe, have been chosen to represent Israel in the prestigious NASA and Google program this year, Singularity University, which will be held at the NASA base in California. The contest was held in cooperation between the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ramon Foundation. Eighty of the brightest young minds from around the world will attend, as researchers will be exposed to the best and most advanced technologies and research.


The purpose of the project is to assist the eighty student in executing initiatives aimed at dealing with the challenges humanity is facing in the fields of energy, water, food, space and more. Among the judges of the Israeli competition were the director of the Ministry of Science Menachem Greenblum; the CEO of Google Israel, Meir Brand, and Ron Pundak, Director General of the Peres Center for Peace.


Among the winners was Hillel Mishal, an MA student in environmental physics and solar nano-antenna expert from the Ben Gurion University in Sde Boker, Israel. In his interview with Ynet, Hillel spoke of his research in high efficiency solar cells based on nano-antenas.


“This is about converting energy in completely different way from anything we know today. Although scientists have already thought of this direction back in the 1970’s, it was impossible to execute it because nano-technology was just a dream back then.”


Today it’s customary to convert energy using the thermo system which is based on the sun’s heat which turns water into steam (like a normal power station), or with the photovoltaic method: a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity. The problem in these methods is there cost-efficiency: they are much more expensive than oil, for example.


“My system can, at least theoretically, be much more efficient. It’s based on a special quality of sunlight which has not been measured before. Just like the antenna in a cellular phone converts radiation to an electric signal, the same can be done with sun radiation. The only difference is in the size of the antennas, which need to be very tiny: about a hundred nano-meters – a billionth of a meter”


Hillel hopes that the contest will encourage future green projects and other young people to come to his university and study in the Desert Studies Department: “It’s important for me to call out to everyone invest in this place, in the desert, which succeeds in combining science, nature and values. The Department for Desert Studies which operates here deals with different fields like desalination and purification of water or desert agriculture – problems which are becoming increasingly important.”


Together with Hillel, Omri Yafe and Tzvika Oron have won for their invention, LifeBeam, which deals with developing unique sensors for physiological monitoring which can alert emergency services in real-time.


This article first appeared on Ynet in Hebrew and is reprinted with permission.


Article was translated by Lee Golan of NoCamels.

Related articles: (NASA, Google, Ramon Foundation, )

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