Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Soviet Born Israeli Scientist Develops Unique Electrical Power Plant That Has No Moving Parts

April 6, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Magnetohydrodynamics-MHD- a long word for an elegantly simple method of producing electricity, is the science behind a unique power plant that has no moving parts, can run on any heat source from solar energy to industrial waste heat, can save one-third on conventional fuel usage, and is now a working reality at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva.

The man behind the invention, Prof. Herman Branover, announced in New York at the national office of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, “We’ve finally demonstrated a working model out of the lab. It’s a real, small facility. It’s not a toy. In June, we will be demonstrating a 10-kilowatt semi-industrial plant in Beersheva.”

Branover’s 18-foot high working model can generate up to one kilowatt of electricity. The system is unique among MHD generators in using liquid metal flowing between two poles of a magnet to generate electricity at relatively low temperatures.

Other MHD generators, still in the experimental stage in the U.S. and U.S.S.R., use ionized gas heated to 3,000 degrees centigrade. Branover’s liquid metal MHD generator works at dramatically lower temperatures of 80 to 300 degrees centigrade.


The mini-power plant, using steam to heat and propel mercury, made its international debut last month at Ben-Gurion University’s Fourth Beersheva Seminar on MHD-Flows and Turbulence.

Branover says the upcoming June demonstrations of a 10-Kilowatt plant will be followed by a commerical model able to generate 1000 or more kilowatts.

Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago is participating in development of Branover’s liquid metal MHD generator. The Branover system is funded by Solmecs, a British-Israeli corporation, and Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Branover, 52, emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel in 1972. While still in the USSR, he was considered for candidacy for the Nobel Prize, which he discouraged, fearing that the authorities would never allow a Nobel scientist to leave the Soviet Union. After 15 years of unsuccessful attempts to leave, he was finally allowed to emigrate but had to pay an exit fee of $40,000, the highest every paid.

A deeply religious man, Branover is the author of “Return,” the story of his odyssey from the Soviet Union to Israel. He is currently chairman of “Shamir,” the association of Orthodox scientists and professionals from the Soviet Union who have emigrated to Israel.

Recommended from JTA