Israeli 3D print whizz and visionary of ‘self-healing’ cars gets big US accolade

Noam Eliaz is the first non-American to become a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors, in recognition for his ‘contributions to the innovation ecosystem’

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

Tel Aviv University's Prof. Noam Eliaz with staff in his lab (Greg Solomon/Fulbright)
Tel Aviv University's Prof. Noam Eliaz with staff in his lab (Greg Solomon/Fulbright)

An Israeli 3D printing pioneer has become a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors, making him the first scientist based outside the US to attain the status.

“It’s acknowledgment for my research, but also, in a sense, a mark of respect for Israeli science,” Noam Eliaz, professor of materials science and engineering at Tel Aviv University, told The Times of Israel.

Eliaz said that he sees the accolade as a reflection on his past work, but also as a mark of confidence in his current projects. He hopes those projects will lead to new applications for 3D printing, including the groundwork for “self-healing” cars and aircraft.

Eliaz was nominated for his new position, which will be officially conferred in a ceremony in Florida next year, after an American academic heard him speak in China and became interested in his work.

The academy said it chose him in recognition of his “technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society,” and “contributions to the innovation ecosystem.” While he is the only senior member who is Israeli, there are three Israeli fellows.

Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Noam Eliaz with a tensile test machine, used to test mechanical properties of materials (courtesy of Tel Aviv University)

Eliaz’s work focuses on making materials more versatile, stronger, and often also usable in nano-form. Applications range from calcium phosphate coatings for dental and bone implants to electrochemical nano-coatings using the metal rhenium that are deployed in aircraft engines and on the outside of satellites, to protect them in high temperatures and aggressive environments. He patented the rhenium coatings in 2016.

Eliaz also developed new applications for ferrography, a special method of analyzing oil that is used to study particle wear on machine components. The Israeli Air Force used his research to improve monitoring of helicopters, and in 2010 selected it as having the third-highest impact on the IAF among all engineering projects carried out in the materials field throughout its existence.

A 3D printer (Pixabay)

Eliaz is now heavily focused on 3D printing, and runs a new center at Tel Aviv University dedicated to the technology. He has a chair for 3D printing at India’s Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Eliaz is working on enabling the use of increasingly complex materials in 3D printing, to produce items that combine numerous different substances.

One project is a “smart composite material” containing several different components, for making parts for cars and airplanes. “Parts would be 3D printed, with [an] inherent capability [for] ‘self-healing’ if there is a crack,” he said.

“Cracks will be closed and this will increase [the] reliability and safety of car parts.”

Reflecting on his new position in the National Academy of Inventors, he said: “As inventors and entrepreneurs, our job is to constantly look for the next professional challenge and develop the new groundbreaking invention, for the benefit of society and technology.”

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