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Dr. Victor Chernov

Technion historical building


Victor Chernov awarded the Ilan Ramon scholarship for space related research by Israeli Ministry of Education: Says Funding Needed To Ensure Researchers Stay in Israel

by Rhonda Spivak, December 11, 2010

Victor Chernov’s parents were both engineers living in the Soviet Union, who took the opportunity to leave the Anti-Semitic climate of the collapsing communist Empire to immigrate to Israel in 1990.
Chernov says “ My parents arrived in the first wave of immigrants from the former USSR,” and chose to live in Haifa. “It was either Haifa or Beer Sheva and we chose Haifa because of the sea,” Chernov recalls.
The 12 year old arriving in Israel remembers that as a child “I liked building model airplanes,” and was interested in the sciences.
Chernov decided to study aerospace engineering at the Technion Institute in Haifa (the only such program of its kind in Israel) so he could become “a rocket scientist”, because “I like to burn things.” His interest is in rocket propellants.
Chernov spoke at the Berney Theatre on November 25, as part of a speaking tour of Western Canada, that included Regina, Calgary, and Vancouver. He was introduced by the new President of the Winnipeg chapter of the Canadian Technion Society, Javier Shwersensky.(Morley Blankstein is the Past President of the chapter).
At the Technion, most of the research done, according to Chernov, “applies to different kinds of rockets—defense rockets, patriot missiles, air to air missiles.”
Chernov received his Ph.D at the Technion during which he was awarded the Ilan Ramon scholarship for space related research by the Israeli Ministry of Education .He is currently a Leon Sachs Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto at the University of Toronto.
He explained how a rocket works by using the simple example of a balloon.
“Think of blowing up a balloon. When you release it, it flies up, because the gas in it has a certain energy. This energy transforms to movement of gas and when the gas is released from the balloon, because of Newton’s Third Law, the balloon is propelled upward. In the case of a rocket, you take gas, and give it a lot of energy, usually by combustion and then the gas is released through a nozzle and the rocket itself is propelled to a direction that I opposite of the movement of the gas.””
Chernov said that rockets are traditionally fuelled by either solid or liquid fuels. He researches new types of rocket propellants, relating to gels.
Gel fuel is a non-Newtonian, shear-thinning fuel that is made by adding gelling agents to a standard hydrocarbon fuel. The ideal modus operandi of gel fuels is "Store as solid, use as liquid". Gel fuel allows for a more safer and more energetic performance. Gels minimizing involuntary flows and spills. They can make for more energetic performance because of the possibility of adding metal powders to the fuel.
As Chernov said, “ Gels are stored as solid so that makes them safe. Gels are viscous. They don’t flow so you don’t have leakage problems, but you can hold metals inside the grel, and use the gel to shoot off the rocket.”
Has Chernov ever launched a rocket?
“In most of our tests we take the motor out of the rocket and set it on a stand and then we turn on the rocket and measure the pressure and the thrust,” he answered. “Sometimes as students we launched model small rocket. There is an air force base in Palmachim where rockets are launched towards the direction of the sea.”
Chernov noted that Israel has designed all sizes of rockets, including small anti-tank rockets , and a rocket called Shavit which launches satellites into space.
Chernov intends to return to Israel, and says that the caliber of faculty members at the Technion is “very high” in aerospace engineering. But he noted that cuts to higher education in the last five years in Israel are having their effect.
For example, when he was in the midst of conducting his research at The Technion, “a piece of equipment broke. My advisor was finding money e to fix the equipment so I had to wait…You need funding to maintain equipment.”
As he said, “If you can’t research, then you go somewhere where you can—where there is funding,” which is why Israel has been experiencing a brain drain.
Although “the State of Israel says it wants to bring back scientists,” Chernov expressed some “‘pessimism” as to what’s going to happen.
Dr. Chernov was accompanied by Hershel Recht, the national development director of the Canadian Technion Society based in Toronto. The Society has provided support for the Technion Institute of Technology for the last 65 years. For example Seymour Schulich’s gift has allowed the Schulich Faculty of chemistry tot upgrade its research infrastructure and support scholarships and fellowships.
The Morley Blankstein Academic Lectureship in Architecture and Urban Planning brings internationally acclaimed speakers to the students and faculty at the Technion. [see the end of this article for more about the Blankstein Lectureship]

Recht referred to the Technion, which first opened its doors in 1924, as “a motor of the Israeli economy.” It has an international reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine.

Recht noted that money needs to be raised for graduate scholarships. “In order for Israel to maintain its stability and its edge in technological research, graduate students need to be supported.”

 Today the Technion has a student population of over 12000 with 9400 in undergraduate studies, 2,300 in Master degrees and nearly 1000 studying for doctoral degrees.
Over 70 per cent of the founders and managers of Israel’s vibrant high tech sector are Technion graduates, helping make Israel home to the greatest concentration of high tech start up companies, outside the United States.

 Shwersensky told the audience that the Technion was trying to bring an agreement into place between itself and the University of Manitoba for student exchanges.

For more information or to take out a membership in the Winnipeg Chapter, contact


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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