Ben-Gurion University (BGU) excels in the area of solar energy. Solar research began at Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR) at Sede Boqer in 1976 and has continued steadily since. In the late 1980s, the government established the National Solar Energy Center (NSEC) at Sede Boqer, and transferred its management to the BIDR in 1993. NSEC has developed and maintains a solar RD&D infrastructure which provides vital services to academic, industrial and commercial groups. NSEC scientists have performed R&D in a wide range of fundamental and applied aspects of solar energy, mainly CPV. The Center is Israel's only national solar energy test facility, acquiring international reputation as a worldwide authority in the field. The main areas of activity include research and experimentation in both concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) and solar-thermal (ST) technologies, at the device and system level. Among other infrastructure installations is PETAL, the world's largest parabolic solar dish, for ultra-high concentration of solar radiation, a unique facility for a wide range of applications. The combination of highly concentrated sunlight by applying advanced optics and appropriately designed PV cells greatly improves efficiency and cost-effectiveness of generating electricity directly from sunlight. Additional subjects are the study of new materials for photovoltaic cells; solar energy for needs beyond producing electricity, and a wide range of fundamental research topics.
Researchers at BGU investigate a number of novel strategies towards development of highly efficient and inexpensive PV devices. The strength of the BGU research teams lies in the collaboration between various researchers spanning a large portion of the scientific disciplines, from physicists and chemists through chemical, material and electrical engineers. This interdisciplinary synergetic approach draws all the way from synthesis of materials and nanometric molecular structures, through control of their structural, optical and electronic properties, to photovoltaic device processing and characterization. The Ilse Katz Institute for Meso and Nanoscale Science and Technology, recently established at BGU, provides the proper infrastructure. BGU research teams have unique experience in characterization of photovoltaic performance of solar cells and their long-term stability under real sun operation conditions.
There are other areas of research at BGU related to solar energy. One of the important fields is smart grid. Three groups from computer science, electrical engineering and communications engineering participate in a new MAGNET project in this topic.
BGU has promoted and supported fundamental and exploratory research programs for production of renewable and alternative liquid fuels. The research infrastructure on the main (Marcus) and Sede Boqer campuses is well-suited for a wide-range of activities related to R&D of renewable liquid fuels. It encompasses energy crops research, algae biotechnology and desert oilseeds conducted at Sede Boker. A wide variety of activities are related to liquid fuels from gasified biomass, electrochemical and photoelectrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide to fuels, second generation renewable diesel, nanostructures for advanced photocatalysis and hybrid nanowires for water splitting and catalytic liquid fuels production from carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Collaborations with other academic teams and industrial partners from Israel and abroad have enhanced the impact and raise the profile of the BGU R&D in this important area. Researchers from BGU have been invited to participate in national and international forums dealing with this topic including the MOLMOP Committee on Energy, the National Academic Committee, the Israeli Government meeting, the Eilat Eilot International Renewable Energy Conferences and the Herzliya Conferences.
Green Campus and increasing efficiency of energy usage leading to energy savings have been implemented successfully at BGU and gained national recognition. Energy aspects in buildings and innovations in passive heating and cooling are research topics developed at Sede Boqer with potentially significant impact on energy consumption.