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December 2, 2019 11:59 pm

Israeli Company Seeks to Use Space Technology to Solve Pressing Pollution Problem on Earth

avatar by Lauren Izso

A GenCell generator. Photo: Courtesy.

An Israeli company says it is using space travel technology to help solve one of the most pressing problems down on Earth — the reliance on diesel fuel, a major source of pollution.

Israeli startup GenCell has developed an electric generator based on a hydrogen-energy technology used to power some of the most-famous space missions in history.

Most generators in existence today — found off the power grid or in locations where a backup power source is necessary in case of an outage — require diesel, a poisonous fossil fuel.

“We are the only one right now that can compete with the diesel generator, which is a 100-year-old technology,” GenCell CEO Rami Reshef told The Algemeiner. “We are cleaner and cheaper.”

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GenCell utilizes a unique scientific method, which has been able to reduce the cost dramatically, compared to its competitors, according to Reshef. “We call it a generator, but it’s far away from anything we are familiar with,” he noted.

While hydrogen power is becoming more and more popular, Petah Tikva-based GenCell extracts it from ammonia, making it more affordable than other “green” options, and even diesel.

The company’s technology is currently at the forefront of Israel’s “hydrogen economy,” with the support of the country’s Energy Ministry, which calls it a leader in manufacturing commercial hydrogen power.

Reshef says billions of people around the world currently live in areas that are at risk of natural disasters — increasing constantly due to global warming — and power outages in those areas are common.

GenCell, founded in 2011 by Reshef, Ginnadi Finkelstein and Gil Shavit, also aims to protect critical infrastructure at risk of power outages.

“We can take this technology and improve the lives of what we call developed economies, by backing up all the critical points in the society such as medical facilities, financial institutions, homeland security, emergency services, anything and everything that cannot tolerate an outage,” Reshef said.

If any such critical infrastructure loses power, not only is there a financial risk, but lives are put in danger too.

GenCell says its generator has a faster reaction rate than others, so less data is lost in power transitions.

The product is already in use at one of Israel’s hospitals: Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera.

Ronen Edri, director of the hospital’s technical and engineering department said the generator “enables our staff to carry out medical procedures with full confidence and peace of mind,” resulting in better patient care.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is more than 150 years old. One of its most well-known uses was in the Apollo moon program during the 1960s and 1970s. The spacecraft that brought Neil Armstrong to the Moon in 1969 was powered by such technology.

Reshef said the hydrogen energy industry is booming, and GenCell’s product will make green energy more cost efficient. Growing concerns about climate change have also led to a push to make diesel fuel obsolete.

There are approximately 1.2 million telecommunications bases around the world, currently powered by diesel fuel, Reshef said. A GenCell case study estimates that the industry would save billions of dollars each year by investing in its technology.

United Nations data shows that nearly two billion people live disconnected from the power grid, and Reshef believes GenCell could replace the diesel-fueled energy they currently consume. The World Health Organization estimates that roughly 4.6 million people die each year as a direct or indirect result of pollution, and unless something is done to eliminate diesel, Reshef says that number will only increase.

While fossil fuels may be wasteful and create immense pollution, hydrogen-based fuel cells have not yet proven to be the perfect solution. According to chemical engineering professor Dr. Eran Edri, while it may not be a silver-bullet solution to the world’s energy problems, it’s certainly a central component. “The hydrogen economy is an important part of any future energy economy,” he told The Algemeiner.

Reshef is hopeful that society is moving in the right direction, and in the next decade diesel, among other fossil fuels, will no longer be used. “More and more countries and governments are pushing for it,” he said. “Hydrogen cars in California, New York, China, Japan, and hydrogen busses for public transportation. The general feeling is that we are heading in the right direction, unfortunately not at the right speed.”

Gideon Friedmann, acting chief scientist of Israel’s Energy Ministry says hydrogen-fueled vehicles are even more efficient and sustainable than electric ones. “The hydrogen cycle does not pollute,” he pointed out. “For transportation, it can serve to fuel electric vehicles equipped with electricity producing fuel cells, making them significantly longer range compared to battery electric vehicles.”

Friedmann added, “Israel is at the forefront of academic research in hydrogen energy,” and GenCell is one of Israel’s leaders in commercializing this technology.

Reshef and the other GenCell co-founders are hopeful that green energy alternatives like theirs will be revolutionary, but leaders around the globe must be on board.

“I’m calling on any world leaders to save this planet, and leave something to the next generation, and its time to say no to diesel and fossil fuels,” he says. “There are enough alternatives that can replace them. It will not be overnight, it will take years, but it’s completely possible.”

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