Exploring the Physical World

Curiosity Drives Research in Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science

New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD TV) • TAGS: Community, Nanoscience, Physics, Technology

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The Weizmann Institute of Science lies in the heart of green vegetation.

The Institute was chosen several times by The Scientist magazine as one of “the best places to work in academia.”

Here you can find all kinds of researchers at work - some are trying to defeat cancer while others are creating materials never seen before.

In this lab, Professor Reshef Tenne and his team are creating tiny crystals called nanoparticles. Nanoparticles can only be created under laboratory conditions.

Because of the extra-small size of the crystals, the atoms within them are arranged in structures not seen in nature, and this results in completely different qualities.

Says Professor Tenne, Director of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for Nanoscale Science and the incumbent of the Drake Family Chair in Nanotechnology, “The best example that we always give is gold. A gold molecule or atom is colorless. Gold, when you look at my ring, is yellow, as you see. In the nano regime, when you take ten or fifty or a hundred atoms of gold, they make a red suspension.

“You see the nanotube – this is an experiment which was carried out by my former student Dr. Ifat Kaplan Ashiri – she takes such a nanotube, she glues it to two pins, and she compresses the nanotube in order to break – and it doesn't break. And that shows you that synthesis – very precise synthesis like the one that we do – can lead to mechanical properties and to other properties which have never been seen before. So this is a beautiful demonstration of the importance of nanoscience and nanotechnology.”

We move on now to a different area of the Weizmann Institute, where Dr. Nissim Ofek and his colleagues are studying the behavior of electrons.

Dr. Ofek, of the Department of Condensed Matter Physics, says, “I can make sure that the two electrons I inject, from here and here, will always get out simultaneously in these two points, so basically synchronizing between two people at distance.”

There is a long way to go from discovering to utilizing.

Luckily for the scientists, the Weizmann Institute owns a company called Yeda, which is responsible for commercializing their discoveries and ideas.

Commercialization, though, according to Professor Tenne, is never the cause for the research. He says, “The Weizmann Institute is a unique place in the world, there’s no doubt about it. And the reason for that uniqueness is the complete freedom that we have here. Complete freedom in the sense that we are allowed to think and to develop our own ideas with no intervention, with no manager whatsoever in this entire Institute that will go into my room and tell me, ‘You have to work on this problem or on that problem.’”

Judging by their achievements so far, this approach seems to work for the Weizmann Institute.