ICE | The Israel Chemist and Engineer

57 The Israel Chemist and Engineer Issue 1, September 2015, Tishrei 5776 Profiles Dr. Lior Elbaz has a B.Sc ., M.Sc . and Ph.D. in chemical engineering, all from the Ben-Gurion University, Israel. During his graduate studies, he became an expert in electrochemistry and electrocatalysis. He used his expertise to develop alternative energy technologies. After finishing his Ph.D. he joined the MPA11 group, at the Materials Physics & Applications Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a world leader in the development of fuel cell technology, where he developed new catalysts, and materials for fuel cells, in order to reduce their price and increase their durability. After almost four years at Los Alamos, Lior came back to Israel to take a faculty position at the Department of Chemistry, Bar-Ilan University, where he heads the alternative Energy Lab. could help him get an academic position in Israel after his return. Eliezer applied to several universities and received positive answers from all of them, and decided to go to work with the late Prof. Brian E. Conway at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Electrochemistry received very high attention in those days. The Western world’s leading laboratories at the time were those of Prof. J.OM . Bockris in the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Prof. Conway whereas the East had the famous lab of Prof. A.N. Frumkin in Moscow. Eliezer quickly became a leading student in Conway’s group. He relates that one day, after his first year, Conway came to the students' room and wrote an equation on the board describing the effect of the lateral interactions between particles on the reaction kinetics and asked his students to try to solve it. All of the other students went back to their work and Eliezer decided to solve this problem. He worked on it all night and solved it. The next day he showed his solution to Conway, who was amazed by Eliezer’s exceptional ability. After that, Eliezer became Conway’s protégé, working closely together with him at the lab and often continuing the work in the evening at Conway’s home. A year later, in 1963, Eliezer submitted his PhD dissertation. According to Eliezer, this is a classic case where opportunity knocks on the door and one needs to be smart enough to open it. Conway convinced him to stick around for six more months until he received an offer to become a team leader in John Bockris’s lab in the University of Pennsylvania, US, with six students working under his supervision, state-of-the-art instrumentation and what seemed to be limitless funds. While working with Bockris, he studied Fuel Cells technology. Eliezer worked in Bockris’s lab for three years and then felt it was time to move on. After working with the two biggest names in electrochemistry in the western world at the time, with very strong recommendations from both of them, Eliezer could get almost any academic or industrial job in his field. Despite the tempting job opportunities in the US, Eliezer decided to come back to Israel and was willing to consider both academic positions and industrial positions. He says his reason for coming back to Israel was pure patriotism – he wanted to live and raise his children in Israel. Eliezer decided to accept an offer from Tel-Aviv University, where he stayed for all his career. When asked, “What is your most significant scientific achievement?” he answered, “I think my biggest achievement was the simple derivation of a general form of the adsorption isotherm of Temkin, which unlike the Langmuir isotherm, takes into account the lateral interactions of adsorbed species. This lead to a better understanding of the Adsorption Pseudo Capacitance and of the mechanism of electrode reactions”. This was later published in volume 3 of the prestigious series of “Modern Aspects in Electrochemistry” edited by Bockris and Conway. Eliezer says that apart from research, he also enjoys teaching and interacting with fellow scientists. He is the author of three textbooks in Physical Electrochemistry, which are still being taught and used by graduate and undergraduate students. According to him, the most important thing he did in his life was the program he envisioned and lead, together with Prof. D. Huppert and the late Prof. B. Fein, for the absorption of talented Russian immigrants, who came to Israel after the fall of the USSR, in Israeli academia – The Gileadi Program. He fought for several years to incorporate these researchers in all the universities in Israel, give them a chance to continue their work and receive a respectable salary. He worked with government officials and senior faculty members of the Israeli academia to avoid what he called “a catastrophe if these researchers were not absorbed”. Again, he looked at this blessed immigration as an opportunity knocking on the door and was smart enough to open it. These actions were driven by the history of his family and his patriotism. Eliezer has published more than 200 scientific papers, books and book chapters. He has written several patents on a wide spectrum of electrochemical applications, received numerous prizes for excellence and recognition, and is a fellow of the Electrochemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Society of Electrochemistry and the International Society for Pure and Applied Electrochemistry. He is also the only Israeli scientist ever who is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a member of its Academy of Sciences. From the writer: both as a student and as a researcher, I have been learning electrochemistry from Eliezer’s books and papers. I consult with him whenever I have a question related to electrochemistry. Eliezer’s door seems to be always open to those who seek it. On top of being, as I like to call him, “the father of the Israeli electrochemistry” and one of the world leaders in the field, he is a wonderful person, always willing to listen, and give advice and help. It is a privilege and pleasure to interact with him.