More energy from sunlight strikes the earth in one hour than is consumed on the planet in one year. Israel is at the forefront of developing new, cost- and energy-efficient photovoltaic (PV) technologies to convert sunlight into electricity that can be drawn off and used externally. The quest for better light-absorbing materials with higher energy conversion efficiency is underway at the Technion. Beyond being inexpensive, these materials must be durable and able to withstand dust, light and heat. Once developed, photovoltaic cells can be used as integral elements in new construction of ‘green’ buildings that will provide for their own energy needs. The PV project will research and develop a variety of device structures and materials systems (organic, inorganic, composites).
Israel is developing improved technologies for converting wind power into mechanical energy or electricity. The markets for these discoveries exist both in Israel but mainly abroad where stable and consistent winds are prevalent. Wind speeds are seldom constant, and turbines are subjected to large changes in wind speeds and gusts. Present-day machines are not equipped to deal with these large variations, resulting in non-optimum performance and damaging oscillatory loads. Technion researchers are developing advanced actuators integrated into the surfaces of wind turbine blades that offset the negative effects of varying winds and gusts. Preliminary tests show that these actuators can be exploited to increase power output and reduce oscillatory loads on a structure, thereby extending turbine life and preventing failure. Current research at the Technion is aimed at developing and optimizing these actuators.
Solar Thermal Energy
Israel has the highest per capita utilization of solar energy worldwide. Most of this solar energy is used for domestic water heating, but innovative technology can greatly expand the industrial-scale use of this resource. Solar-thermal energy can produce electricity and provide heat sources at a range of temperatures for a wide variety of applications that are being researched and developed at the Technion. Special mirrors are employed to concentrate the solar radiation into a focal point, and this heat can create steam to turn a turbine or for other industrial uses in the food processing or textile industries, or for chemical or metal production. Solar thermal energy can be used for space and water heating, and cooling and air conditioning.