Prof. Doron Aurbach: Working Towards a battery powered future

Prof. Doron Aurbach, of the Department of Chemistry and Director of the Nano Cleantech Center at the Bar-Ilan Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA), is among Israel's best-known battery scientists.

Aurbach is best known for the important role he played in the accumulation of knowledge that led to the development of commercial lithium ion batteries. By using a large scope of materials to tweak individual cells, Aurbach succeeded in demonstrating new battery prototypes that can possess high energy density and can exhibit better cycling and safety features of state-of-the-art commercial batteries.

"The fact that we are able to approach any challenge from a few different angles and consistently build and relay on previous findings to advance future projects is our greatest advantage," claims Prof. Aurbach. He attributes his methodical consistency to his mentor and post-doc instructor at CWRU in Cleveland over 30 years ago, Prof. Ernest B. Yeager,  "a religious man who was able to find perfect harmony between his faith and his scientific work.  He was a true man of science, highly attentive to even the smallest details, a genuine visionary." Coincidentally, Prof. Aurbach was recently awarded the Yeager Award from the International Battery Association (IBA), named after the very same Prof. Yeager.

After completing his post-doctorate in the US, Prof. Aurbach returned to BIU and founded the electrochemistry group, the largest research group in Israel, which currently collaborates with several prominent research groups in Europe and the US and with commercial companies in Israel and abroad. An active fellow of the ECS & ISE and a senate member of Bar-Ilan University, Aurbach published over 450 papers in peer reviewed journals, and is serving as Associate Editor for The journal of the Electrochemical Society and the Journal of Solid State Electrochemistry. He is the Chairman of the Israeli Labs Accreditation Authority and Head of Israel's National Research Center for Electric Propulsion. The recipient of the Technology and the research Awards of the Battery Division of the Electrochemical Society (ECS), Prizes of Excellence from the Israel Vacuum Society, the Landau Prize for Green Chemistry, the Technion Institute's Kolthoff Prize and the prestigious Israel Chemical Society Award for excellence in research.

Transport Outlook
Prof. Aurbach and his team are promoting a worldwide revolution in this field by working in close cooperation with the German chemical giant BASF and the American automobile company General Motors to develop advanced batteries for electric propulsion as well as effective new technologies for storage of renewable energy (solar and wind).

A blow of energy
Aurbach’s group is also working on new technologies for storing the nonpolluting energy harvested from wind turbines and solar power stations, the so called “load leveling" applications, which would allow power station activity to fluctuate in accordance with consumer demand. Such technologies would provide a method of storing energy and allowing it to be delivered according to the desired level of energy consumption. Aurbach’s group collaborates with a number of leading industrial concerns on several electrochemical technologies for the storage and conversion of sustainable energy.

They are also using nanoporous carbon electrodes to create novel technologies for water desalination and purification (namely, capacitive de-ionization, CDI), in an attempt to resolve the pressing need of providing access to clean water for one fifth of the world's population. Their work aims at providing a relatively fast and cost-effective means of water desalination and purification. In addition, the water purification systems they develop are unique in that they prevent the removal of the alkaline earth ions, namely important nutrients such as calcium and magnesium ions.

A world of revelations
As an orthodox Jew, Aurbach studies the Torah every day, and sees no conflict between his spiritual beliefs and his scientific vocation. "The Torah and Science are both revelations. They coexist in full harmony. The Lord runs the world using a finite number of fundamental rules (laws of nature), which can be precisely described by mathematical equations the human brain can define and understand, and that in itself is a revelation," he explains. "Some of the greatest scientists of all time, such as Newton, Pasteur, Plank, Schrödinger, even Einstein to some extent – all recognized there was a higher power in effect. Our ability to learn the laws of nature, God's creation, and use this knowledge so successfully to develop all kinds of technologies – that's a revelation right there."
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