Partner Profile: Moti Herskowitz

"The extraordinary challenge in this field is to cross the Valley of Death... necessary for commercial implementation."

This issue of the GCI newsletter features Moti Herskowitz, Director of the Blechner Center for industrial Catalysis and Process Development at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Over the years your career focus has changed. What drove the change in focus? 

Catalysis and catalytic materials and processes have been at the forefront of science and technology for over 100 years, having an enormous impact on the modern life of human society. The needs have changed dramatically over the last century from production of basic products based on fossil feedstocks (coal, oil, natural gas) to overcoming major detrimental effects on the environment. Finding viable solutions to the air, water and land pollution created by modern society is one of the major challenges of the 21st century. It was natural to shift my interests to environmental catalysis, specifically dealing with renewable resources and products, based on carbon dioxide and water rather than fossil feedstocks.

How did the Blechner Center for Industrial Catalysis and Process Development come into being?

Norbert Blechner, an American philanthropist, and valued friend of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev expressed his desire to establish a university center that combines advanced fundamental and applied research dealing with major challenges of human society. He decided to support, through a major donation awarded in 1995, the establishment of the Blechner Center for Industrial Catalysis and Process Development.

The Center staff consists of researchers in the fields of heterogeneous catalysis, materials science, reactor engineering and process simulations and technology, graduate students, postdocs and permanent engineers and technicians. The staff of the Blechner Center has developed the infrastructure and the expertise in novel catalytic materials and processes based on extensive funding from science foundations, many industrial partners and our original donation.

What are your goals for the Blechner Center?

The main goal of the Blechner Center over the next decade is to build on our vast knowhow, infrastructure and intellectual property and form partnerships aimed at continuing the research and development of advanced catalytic materials and processes for conversion of carbon dioxide and water to renewable feedstocks and products. The extraordinary challenge in this field is to cross the Valley of Death from say TRL 5 (developed at the Blechner Center) to TRL 7 (pilot plant) necessary for commercial implementation. We conduct negotiations with various potential partners to utilize opportunities for realization of economically viable and environmentally friendly projects.

Another goal is to explore new aspects of environmental catalyses and processes that could provide significant advantages compared with current scientific and technological tools.

How is it that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett came to visit the Blechner Center when he was the Minister of Education?

Mr. Naftali Bennett paid a visit to the Ben-Gurion University and asked to visit two research labs. The University President at the time, Professor Rivka Carmi, decided to visit the lab of the Blechner Center for R&D of renewable feedstocks and products. Mr. Bennett, who was very active in the high-tech industry before getting into politics, expressed great interest, and asked to be updated on the progress to commercialization.

What do you wish more people understood about the work that you do?

Our research spans over several fields with close collaboration between researchers to advance fundamental and applied science. We hope that our efforts in carbon dioxide conversion to liquid renewable fuels and chemicals will have a significant impact, and we believe that this impact can be accomplished through properly orchestrated scientific projects.  

News in a Nutshell

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US to launch research challenge to capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere at COP26 climate change conference

DOE Invests in Direct Air Capture Projects to Reduce Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide; Jennifer Granholm Quoted

SK E&S Gears Up to Develop Carbon Dioxide Capture Technology

Imminent Events

VERGE Net Zero Event: Accelerating The Transition To A Climate-positive Future

July 27-28

Join more than 5,000 professionals working on sustainability, supply chains, facilities, fleets, manufacturing and other key areas to learn from leaders behind the private sector’s most ambitious carbon targets. For more information, please click here.

FootPrint Coalition's DOWNSTREAM CHANNEL | Episode 3 - "Geodesign"

FootPrint Coalition's own Robert Downey Jr. and Rachel Kropa explore the concept of geodesign and how we can harness technology to build better buildings and cities for a more sustainable future. Robert and Rachel learn about how to integrate nature and design to reduce carbon emissions in our built environment. To watch it, please click here.

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