University partners with Israeli school

By Will Greenberg, For the Daily
Published March 17, 2013

The University recently announced it will partner with the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel to research renewable energy technologies. Faculty from both universities will be accepting and working on proposals for research projects in renewable energy.

The two universities will contribute a combined total of $1 million to the collaboration. University Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest said the relationship is intriguing for both institutions.

“This is a really exciting opportunity,” Forrest said, “It's opening a lot of doors.”

Ben-Gurion has already had success in renewable energy technologies, Forrest noted.

“The one energy source that they have unquestionably in abundance is solar,” Forrest said. “They have a very practical attitude toward developing alternative energy sources.”

In addition to solar energy, algae-generated energy and thermoelectricity are major focuses of Ben-Gurion’s prior research, Forrest said.

“We’re pretty open-ended at this point,” Forrest said. “We pay our faculty part, they pay their faculty part, but they have to be joint projects. We’re inviting them to come forward with their ideas and then we will evaluate the best ideas and come (up with) the best proposals.”

Chemical Engineering Prof. Mark Barteau, the director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute, said the initial focus of the joint research projects will be on energy areas such as solar energy, transportation fuels and thermoelectric materials.

“The idea is that each project will involve a faculty collaborator from each institution,” Barteau said. “It’s a way for us to broaden our network and look for opportunities to both apply and expand the kind of energy research that’s going on at the University of Michigan.”

Both Barteau and Forrest said the partnership should provide opportunities for student exchanges between the universities. The hope is that students will gain new perspectives from working with researchers from other parts of the world and see how people living in different climates approach renewable energy.

“We feel we have a lot to gain. Just as in any classroom or laboratory we gain from our local diversity, well, of course, you gain that same diversity … as we reach out to other countries,” Forrest said.

The first funding for proposals is projected to come out in September 2013.