Shades and curtains that can light up a room or darken a window, making them as transparent or as opaque as desired; monitoring of physiological parameters such as stress, fatigue, pain, alcohol influence, drug use, and other factors using electromagnetic emissions from sweat ducts; 3D printers that can print circuit boards and sensors; threads that are stronger than spider webs; and dozens of new nano-technology innovations and inventions.
It’s all part of the brave new world of nano-materials technology, in which nano-tech is employed to develop fibers, metals, and other materials to do the above and much more. In fact, all of those products and technologies were designed by Israeli high-tech firms Qlight, Neteera, Nano-Dimension, and Seevix, respectively.
What all those companies have in common is that they are graduates of technology developed at Hebrew University and promoted by Yissum, Hebrew U’s tech transfer company – and on March 29th, Yissum and Hebrew University will be sponsoring its first-ever Advanced Materials Conference.
“It’s a window to all that is happening in the area of materials development,” said Dana Gavish-Fridman, head of business development at Yissum. “There is a lot happening in materials, both in academic development and in emerging technologies that are just going on the market. The research we are doing at Hebrew University is being adopted by some of the world’s largest companies, via the tech transfer to the private sector Yissum is responsible for.”
A good example of that process is Qlight, an Israeli start-up that last year was bought out by Merck KgaA, one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical firms, but also the world market leader, with 60 percent of the market, in liquid crystal display technology. Qlight develops lighting solutions based on nano-technology “that are far superior to anything currently on the market, and that will help us retain and expand our position as market leader,” said Karl-Ludwig Kley, CEO of Merck, on a visit to Israel last June to sign the deal for the acquisition of the Israeli firm. With Qlight’s technology, Merck hopes to develop innovative lighting solutions – such as the aforementioned shades that can change from transparent to opaque, as needed.
Qlight’s technology was developed at Hebrew University, in the lab of Professor Uri Banin, who for over a decade has been working on development of quantum materials that can emit and provide extra brilliance to light. Merck discovered Banin’s research in 2009, and after an initial investment, the company increased its stake in Qlight in 2012, becoming an equity investor and 50% owner in 2013 – until June 2015, when it bought out the rest of the company.
Most of the tech in this area is very early-stage, said Gavish-Fridman. “Since this is a new area, you would expect that development time for a final product to market would be longer than in established technologies, like mobile or networks. But the time to market is less than it would be for pharmaceuticals, for example. Nano Dimension, which just got over a million dollars from the Office of the Chief Scientist and is publicly traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, is just a year and a half old.”
Nano Dimension, founded in 2012, focuses on development of advanced 3D printed electronics systems. The company last month signed a deal with Tel Aviv University to collaborate on development of nanoparticle nickel materials developed at TAU. The tech could make 3D printing more versatile by developing nickel nanoparticles for inkjet printing that could expand the range of materials such printers can use.
A much earlier stage firm, but one Yissum has a lot of hope for, is Neteera, which has developed a novel technology that enables reliable and speedy biometric identification based on the detection of electromagnetic emissions from sweat ducts. The tech could be used to monitor driver behavior behind the wheel, checking to see if a driver is too tired or too drunk to be driving. The technology was invented by Prof. Yuri Feldman from the Department for Applied Physics, and by Dr. Paul Ben Ishai, Manager of The Center for Electromagnetic Research and Characterization (CERC), both at Hebrew University.
Qlight, Nano Dimension, Neteera, and other fruits of Hebrew U materials development labs will be presenting their technologies to multinationals like 3M and Hutchinson Water (who are co-sponsoring the event), and many others, said Gavish-Fridman. “Materials technology is going to change the world, and Israel is emerging as a world leader in this area. The event will be a great opportunity to show off what we’ve accomplished in this area.”