BGU researcher Dr. Taleb Mokari has been selected to receive a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) in 2011. The highly-competitive grants are considered Europe’s most prestigious research awards. They were created, according to the ERC’s mission statement, to encourage “pioneering frontier research in any field of science, engineering and scholarship.”
This is the seventh ERC grant awarded at BGU in the three years since they were created and is a confirmation of the rising quality of the University's researchers and research facilities. Of the eight ERC grant recipients at BGU since 2007, three have been from the Department of Chemistry.
Dr. Taleb Mokari of the Department of Chemistry and the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology was selected for his “promising track-record of early achievements appropriate to their research field and career stage, including significant publications (as main author) in major international peer-reviewed multidisciplinary scientific journals, or in the leading international peer reviewed journals of their respective field,” as per ERC criteria.
Mokari focuses on creating hybrid nano-materials to generate green energy. He hopes to develop materials that would replace silicon-based solar panels and be both cheap and efficient. “I think we received full score for our proposal because it combines basic academic scientific research with a very new and exciting technological horizon,” he said. Mokari would like to take a step back and reexamine the process of photon absorption and conversion to electrons so as to develop inorganic nanomaterials that can provide higher power efficiency - more than the 5% which is the norm today. He and his lab will also look at using solar energy to break apart water to create hydrogen, which can be used as a source to produce liquid fuel.
The ERC grant of € 1.5 million is for five years.
Among his accomplishments and awards, Mokari was awarded the Krill award, IUPAC award, Maoof fellowship and a Fulbright and an Ilan Ramon postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley for one year and spent two years as a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Founded in 2007, the ERC is dedicated to “stimulating scientific excellence by supporting and encouraging the very best, truly creative scientists, scholars and engineers to be adventurous and take risks in their research.”
Being 'investigator-driven', or 'bottom-up', in nature, the ERC approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions in any field of research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians. This approach ensures that funds are channeled into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility, according to the Council.
In 2010, Israel ranked fourth in number of recipients of ERC grants.