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Archive for April, 2011

Dr. David  Greenblatt, Gilad Doron and Amos Ben Harav prepare the cylinder for it’s pilot test.

Note: The following entry was written by Noa Ben Harav. For more information on Noa, please click on the “About Our Blog” tab above.

I spent the last two weeks with an interesting and diverse group of students at the Technion who are guided by Dr. David Greenblatt, one of the younger faculty members of the Mechanical Engineering Department.  Professor Greenblatt specializes in renewable wind energy and has recruited several master’s students to work in his new wind tunnel lab, where they investigate some of the most cutting edge technology and theories regarding wind turbines and aircraft wings.  In his own words the motley crew is “an eclectic mix” — students from Ohio, Berlin and the former Soviet Union —  “about 7 or 8 in all, part-time and full-time.”  Only one is a native born and bred Israeli and another is a katin chozer (returning youth) from the US.

Dr. Greenblatt himself is an oleh from Johannesburg, South Africa. He immigrated with his wife and two children in 1994. “It was a combination of Zionist fervor and social unrest, mostly the former,” he said, explaining his decision. They have since had two more children and spent time in the United States, at the Illinois Institute of Technology and at NASA, as well as Berlin and Tel Aviv. His eldest daughter serves in the Israeli army as a morah chayalet, a Hebrew teacher for new immigrants, and she will be the first member of the family to serve in the Israeli army.

When he first arrived at the Technion, Dr. Greenblatt chose the Mechanical Engineering Department in order to pursue studies in alternative energy. He is currently working on several different projects that he hopes will make wind energy a more viable global option. One of the more radical projects he has developed is a cylindrical structure that oscillates with the wind, which he hopes will replace the turbine as a safer and more effective way of producing energy. “It’s also bird friendly.”

Gilad places the cylinder in the wind tunnel

Gilad Doron is working on this project with Dr. Greenblatt, building a motor that can manipulate currents. Gilad just completed his undergraduate degree last year and decided to continue straight on to his master’s.  He has always wanted to be an engineer. “It’s good work, hands on. You get to start from scratch and build something. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” he tells me as he readies his project for it’s first trial run in the wind tunnel.

The wind tunnel dominates the lab. When you first walk in it is directly in front of you, reaching almost to the ceiling with huge fans and different chambers that look like an over-sized camera obscura. All of the lab’s students rotate experimenting in the various chambers of the tunnel.

Amos Ben Harav, another master’s student, is researching active control methods on vertical axis wind turbines.  When I spoke with him, he was working on a computer program that will help calculate the effectiveness of his turbine.

He is part of a Zionist tradition from both sides of his family. Amos’s father, Arye, made aliyah in the 70s and fought in the Golan Heights with his tank corps during the Yom Kippur War. Two months before the war broke out, Arye married Ilana, the daughter of a Polish refugee who after surviving the Holocaust and detention camps in Cyprus, arrived in the newly formed state of Israel and fought in the War of Independence.

Amos spent most of his youth in Lexington, Massachusetts, but always knew he wanted to serve in the IDF.  He returned in 2006 through a Garin program to join the IDF and serve in the paratroopers. “I always new I was going to come back home – it was just a matter of putting the pieces together and making the move.”

Gilad Doron and Amos Ben Harav work on computer programs to help calculate the effectiveness of the turbine.

After finishing his mandatory service in November 2008, Amos was called back for reserve duty during Operation Cast Lead, making him the third generation in his family to fight in one of Israel’s wars.

I noticed during the time I spent in the lab that though there were a few laughs and coffee breaks, the students worked with a level of intensity and dedication that I have not witnessed before. Each one spoke to me about his life and his background, but their projects were really what they wanted to talk about.

Through the flurry of science terms that I couldn’t understand, I was impressed with how devoted the students were and how much they wanted to succeed, not just for themselves, but for political, scientific and environmental reasons too. As Dr. Greenblatt said, “In the end of the day I moved towards energy because it is just more satisfying. You feel like you have accomplished something incredible when it works, and you have.”

To see a video of the wind tunnel lab, please click here, where you can also see other ATS videos on YouTube.

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