We don't mean to kvetch, but the new website we promised back in June is still as elusive as cold fusion. Scientific research, of course, is going strong, and we even continue to write about it, but no one can read about it on our website (and therefore, we can't offer links to articles on the newest findings).
In the meantime, here is the October image from our 2010-2011 calendar:
It looks like quite a simple apparatus, but in many ways, it was far ahead of its time. It was called a mechanochemical engine, and it was created at the Institute in the 1950s by Prof. Aharon Katzir. Katzir was the brother of Prof. Ephraim Katzir, the Institute biochemist who served as the fourth president of Israel. Aharon headed the Polymer Department until he was killed in a terrorist attack on the airport in 1972.
The belts in the machinery are made from animal collagen fibers and the reservoir at the bottom contains salt water. The contraction of the fibers as they dipped into the salt water is what drove the engine.
The engine was a preliminary proof-of-principle: Katzir's dream was to build artificial muscle. Some 60 years on, that dream has still not been fully realized, but his experiments did give scientists all sorts of insight into the properties of biological materials.