Known as the ‘Queen of Mean’ because of her tyrannical behavior towards just about everyone who crossed her path, Leona M. Helmsley was also a convicted felon who set up a $12 million trust for her Maltese Trouble. That amount was reduced to a more reasonable $2 million to ensure lifelong care for the dog, while the remaining $10 million was passed on to two grandchildren that Helmsley had disavowed in her will.
Famous for saying “We don’t pay taxes. Only little people pay taxes,” Helmsley left $4 billion for the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust that is now valued at roughly $5-8 billion. And $15 million of that, the trust recently announced, will be used to fund a dynamic joint program between the Weizmann Institute of Science and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to accelerate renewable energy research.
Dubious origins aside, the grant will allow dozens of researchers from the two institutions to reach across a myriad of disciplines to find new ways to generation energy from biofuels, photovoltaics, and to capture light using optics.
And the marriage between Israel’s leading research institution, Weizmann to Technion’s world-renowned engineering and technical savvy is expected to catalyze a giant leap forward in a country that still relies deeply on polluting fossil fuels despite having very little of their own.
“In addition to advancing new avenues of research, the new gift will serve to expand and strengthen the success of existing alternative energy programs,” the trust announced.
The Weizmann Institute’s Alternative Energy Research Initiative (AERI), the Grand Technion Energy Program (GTEP) and the Israeli Center of Research Excellence (ICORE) in alternative energy will all receive an influx of cash to help advance their existing work.
Biofuels, photovoltaics, optics
‘The biofuels research includes generating effective methods for breaking down waste plant matter into usable fuel resources, developing algae that can produce biofuels economically and developing plants that can be grown sustainably and provide materials that can easily be converted to biofuel,” PR representative Batya Greenman explained in a recent press release.
This research will be conducted at the Weizmann Institute in new state-of-the-art facilities funded by the trust.
Research will also focus on developing more efficient photovoltaic cells to increase the amount of energy that they can absorb from the sun, while other teams will focus on developing some of the most cutting-edge optic materials, research and designs such as plasmonics, nano structures and metamaterials.
The Weizmann Institute’s Prof. David Cahen heads the Helmsley project together with Prof. Gideon Grader of the Technion.
“Alternative energy is one of the most important, as well as one of the most exciting, fields of research today,” said Prof. Cahen.
“With this grant from the Helmsley Trust, we hope to attract bright, innovative researchers and students to the field. We know that a whole array of energy options will be needed to replace today’s nonrenewable and polluting fossil fuels; all of our present efforts are essential to ensure our energy future.”
Top image via cdn6