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Searching for a greener world
Posted By David Shamah On July 19, 2009 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments
Prof. Gedalyahu Manor began developing revolutionary clean tech products long before ‘green’ was anything more than a color. Even as early as the 1960s, the Israel scientist was creating new environmentally conscious products that in some cases were so ahead of their time, that only now they are being appreciated.
Take his Fast Hole Digger for example. Years ago, Manor and his team invented a super-hole digger, capable of excavating as many as 4,000 uniform, agriculturally useful holes an hour. Crops, trees or flowers can be planted in the holes.
“On a large farm that wants to plant avocados, you might have six or seven workers who might be able to dig maybe 500 holes,” Manor, of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, tells ISRAEL21c. “But with my Fast Hole Digger, holes can be dug even on difficult terrain, on the sides of mountains, for example, and far more quickly than usual.”
But the digger has an even more important environmental role, according to Manor. “Over the past few decades, scientists have become much more aware of the importance of forests in the environmental balance – particularly the role forests play in treating greenhouse gases and improving overall environmental quality. In the event of a forest fire, the digger could be used to excavate holes for the quick replanting of trees that have been lost,” he explains.
In the early 1980s, when a large fire destroyed much of Haifa’s Carmel Forest, Manor urged Israeli forest managers to use his digger, but his offer was turned down. “Clearly the mindset on the importance of the environment was different in those days,” Manor says ruefully.
Ahead of its day
Today the significance of the Fast Hole Digger is clear to all, and it’s now in use throughout Israel, Brazil and other countries to enable forestry services to better manage their tracts of land. US companies have also shown an interest, and Manor is now in negotiations to commercialize the invention there.
Manor has dozens of patents like this one to his name in Israel, the US, and Europe. It’s not surprising then that many people consider him the father of Israel’s clean technology industry.
After years of research and teaching at the Technion, Manor now hopes to commercialize more of his inventions and has set up a company, <a href=”http://www. airgreen.co.il “><strong>AirGreen Technologies</strong></a> with his daughter, Rachel Portman to turn his ideas into real products.
“Environmental consciousness comes in many forms, and the projects Rachel and I have been developing at AirGreen will help to save energy and water, and help to prevent pollution as well,” says Manor.
One of the company’s main areas of development is Manor’s research into spray technology, which is now being applied to areas as diverse as agriculture and air conditioning.
Using less pesticides, more effectively
One application, for instance, is the AirGreen Sprayer, a more efficient, safe and environmentally friendly way to apply pesticides, particularly on fruits and vegetables that are more susceptible to infestation.
According to Manor, the AirGreen Sprayer enables farmers to more accurately pinpoint trouble spots, and allows them to use pesticides that are safer, but only effective when applied “up close.”
Already in use in Australia and Israel, the spraying system, which Manor claims is far superior in its accuracy to the alternatives, allows farmers to use 60 percent less pesticides on each acre of land. And less poison is left behind in the field, meaning that there’s less to seep into the water table, and it’s harder for the insects to develop resistance to the pesticides.
A private capital campaign is currently underway to fully commercialize AirGreen Sprayer.
Other applications of Manor’s spray technology have led to a more efficient air conditioner. “Air conditioning and heating are a big drain on energy,” Portman explains. “When someone walks into a hot or cold room, they tend to turn the heat or cooling to its highest level for a few minutes. That wastes energy, because it could take long minutes until the cool or hot air reaches all parts of the room, especially if it’s a large one.”
With AirGreen’s AirMix, however, there’s no need to flick the high button. “It sounds almost miraculous, but we have figured out a way to ensure that all parts of a room are instantly cooled or heated to the same temperature, as soon as an air conditioning unit is turned on. In other words, the far side of the room will be as cool or as warm as the area next to the unit, within minutes.”
Instant air conditioning in every corner of the room
This would be very useful in places like hospital surgery rooms or computer chip fabrication plants, where temperatures must be strictly regulated to ensure that they are constant throughout the rooms, adds Portman. Instead of having to install elaborate mechanisms to ensure the equal flow of air in the room, an AirMix device will ensure even temperatures more quickly and at far lower cost.
Manor has also developed a mini-version of his device for vehicles. “The higher a driver or pilot has to put on the air conditioning, the more energy the vehicle uses, and with our system, we save not only the energy expended on reaching the ‘ideal’ temperature, but the fuel costs associated with that effort,” he points out.
Portman is sure that the device will be especially useful on buses and planes. “We’ve shown it to executives in the auto and other industries and they are very impressed,” she says.
Yet another of Manor’s inventions could save governments millions of dollars a year on waste treatment. “When solid waste reaches a processing plant, it gets treated in order to retrieve the solid matter, material which is used in a number of products, such as fertilizer and oil-based products,” he explains.
“In order to make this waste useful, at least 80 percent of the water must be removed from it – until now a process that required much energy expenditure. Our system dries the sludge quickly and efficiently, using much less energy. The process of handling, conveying and recycling sludge becomes cost effective and environment friendly,” he says.
UN seal of approval for land mine device
In 2004, the United Nations recognized Manor for inventing an attachment for a tractor or jeep that can safely remove land mines.
Using a robot attached to a number of implements adapted from agricultural use, Manor’s system “mills” the earth in search of explosive devices. When it finds them, it safely detonates them at a distance, while ensuring that the vehicle remains intact, and that no individuals in the area are hurt.
Despite all this recognition, and his plethora of useful inventions, Manor confesses that raising money to develop his ideas commercially can still be a challenge. To meet this test and accelerate AirGreen’s commercialization efforts, Manor recently joined forces with Shai Schechter, a renowned entrepreneur and clean-tech veteran with global business experience.
Schechter aims to set up three separate start-up entities, each of which will focus on developing and commercializing one of Manor’s technologies. Schechter will also help to raise money for projects for each of the start-ups.
Portman smiles as she describes her father: “He’s an inventor, not a businessman, and he’s happy doing his science. But some of his ideas are just too good not to share with the rest of the world.”
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