israeli environmental research

Friday 15 May, 2009

I attended this lunch presentationFrom the Desert, Sun and Sea…for the World sponsored by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Avigad Vonshak, Director of BGU’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR),  led off talking about algae in the desert.  1/2 of the US & all of Israel & Australia archaracterised as arid or dry, so desert locations are important.  Our current rate of desert utilization is unsustainable because we are taking out more than we are putting back.  Effects are far-reaching, in that sand storms in the Sahara have led to eye infections in the US.  Deserts differ in that Israel has stable dunes, while the Sinai Peninsula has shifting dunes.   Algae harvested from these deserts feeds biomass production in Mexico, California, China, & Thailand, which ends up in health food stores.

Dr. Nadav Shashsar,  head of the BGU Dolphin Reef Laboratory, was up next to talk about coral reefs, which are deteriorating at an accelerating rate due to human intervention.  He’s investigating building artificial reefs out of metal reinforced concrete with rough surfaces, which create new habitats.  The USAID-funded program created mutual interests-conservation & tourism.  These reefs grow slowly, to their growth needs to be enhanced, which they’ve accelerated up to 5X in Israel, the Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand, Tanzania, & Jordan.  They’ve experimented in the Red Sea, which is open to public divers.  This is even cultivating peace with Jordan.

David Faiman, chair of Solar Energy & Environmental Physics @ BGU’s BIDR, finished up by addressing solar energy.  In earlier generations of solar power products, much energy was lost & photovoltaic cells were expensive @ $1000 for a 4’x6′ panel & 80% of the cost.  At those rates it takes 1 year to save a barrel of oil.  Solar is a dilute form of energy, so by converting light into electricity & separating the collection from the conversion, they’ve made it much more affordable, generating electricity even cheaper than with fossil fuels.  They created the world’s largest solar disk 4’x4′ 200 ft2 of panels.  Here‘s a video which features Faiman’s work.


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