Each month we recognise the hard work and dedication of one of our Expert Community. The Solar Impulse Foundation Experts use their expertise and knowledge of a range of technical, scientific and business topics to assess solutions seeking the Efficient Solution Label.
This month, we are delighted to say that Dr. Ilana Aldor is May's Expert of the Month! Ilana works for Air Liquide and has been an Expert since 2020, showing enthusiasm and commitment in her role as an Expert ever since. Thank you to Ilana for her hard work! In this article, we hear more about Ilana's experiences and background.
Please tell us a little about yourself!
Ilana: I currently live in Bear, Delaware in the United States, and I work at Air Liquide’s Innovation Campus Delaware. I was born and raised in Canada. I have a Bachelor of Engineering, Chemical from McGill University, and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
Please tell us about your area of expertise and profession?
As a scientist in the Life Sciences Group at Air Liquide, I work with microbial cell factories to produce chemicals, materials, fuels and food from sugar or waste gases. Using a renewable carbon source as a fermentation feedstock eliminates the need for petroleum to make different products consumers use daily. This contributes to the circular economy. For my PhD, I focused on the biosynthesis of a class of natural polyesters known as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) in microbes. These polymers are a source of biobased and biodegradable plastic. At Air Liquide, I recently focused on producing a commodity chemical via fermentation, in collaboration with White Dog Labs (now Superbrewed Food), a start-up biotechnology company in New Castle, Delaware. Stay tuned for possible upcoming news on AL’s work with Superbrewed Food.
What is the most promising or exciting area of your professional focus which could help the transition to clean energy and sustainability?
The most exciting area for me is the idea that, using microbial factories, we can make chemicals used in consumer goods from waste CO2 and other greenhouse gases that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. It is possible to decarbonize power by switching to solar and wind. It is largely possible to decarbonize transport using electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but we need a way to reduce the carbon footprint of items we use daily like our toothpaste, our computer keyboards and the tires on our vehicles.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
I have been fortunate to have worked with some amazingly talented colleagues over the course of my career, and I have learned a lot from them. I also like to think that, at least in a small way, my work will make a difference for future generations.
What kinds of solutions have you assessed as an Expert with the Solar Impulse Foundation? Which solutions have impressed you most, and why?
I have assessed a variety of solutions, including those for remediating contaminated soil and wastewater, for producing bio-based consumer packaged goods and for enhancing food production on farms (including aquaculture). Solutions describing alternative protein products that will help reduce the carbon footprint of food production, particularly by reducing consumer demand for meat, are especially impressive to me. I am also extremely impressed by solutions for consumer-packaged goods that do not contain petroleum-derived products. I think such solutions will have an immediate impact as consumers discover them on their weekly shopping trips. This will accelerate our transition to a circular economy. Most people want to live more sustainably.
Have you seen solutions receiving the Efficient Solution Label that would help in your company or area of research?
Yes. The Life Sciences group at Air Liquide works in many fields including alternative protein, wastewater treatment and agriculture. I have seen several solutions relevant to these areas. What is exciting is that I think certain solutions developed by Air Liquide and certain external solutions receiving the Efficient Solution Label will work synergistically to address pressing problems. Furthermore, Air Liquide Healthcare owns SEPPIC, a specialty chemicals company that is always looking for natural, “petro-free” ingredients. I think certain solutions with the Efficient Solution Label would be of interest to SEPPIC.
What are your hopes for the labelled solutions, and the mission of the Solar Impulse Foundation more widely?
I hope the labeled Solutions obtain more investment and publicity. I would like to see them widely adopted. I also hope that the Solar Impulse Foundation will consider the contribution that synthetic biology could make in reducing society’s carbon footprint and degrading toxic pollutants, as we transition to a circular economy.
To find out more about the Experts and their vital role in labelling clean and profitable solutions, see here.