On Monday Bill Gates announced the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group of 28 investors including Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, and Richard Branson.
A Gates representative tells Tech Insider that the coalition “represents many billions of dollars in willing capital.”
The goal: fund companies on the way to producing energy tech that could solve the energy crisis and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
In an essay called “Energy Innovation: Why We Need It And How To Get It,” Gates described three technologies that “show how ingenious researchers throughout the United States and around the world are developing ideas that could solve the energy problem.”
These technologies are risky and a decade away from being ready — but they could change the world.
Solar chemical: Turning sunlight into fuel.
We can all agree that solar panels are pretty awesome. It’s hard to beat turning sunlight into electricity.
Unless you’re talking turning sunlight into stored chemical fuel.
“Solar chemical” takes the logic of photosynthesis and applies it to fuel.
Gates has previously praised the research of California Institute of Technology professor Nathan Lewis, who is researching artificial photosynthesis. As with photosynthesis in leaves, artificial photosynthesis could lead to devices that harness sunlight to split water molecules into hydrogen fuel. That fuel could be used for any number of purposes.
“Solar chemical would put us on a path to decarbonizing both the electricity and transportation sectors,” Gates writes.
The National Science Foundation’s Center for Chemical Innovation in Solar Fuels says that it’s one of the “holy grails” of 21st century chemistry.
Flow battery: Building a better battery.
The energy crisis isn’t just a matter of collecting energy. We also have to store it. Wind power and solar power are by definition intermittent, so it’s crucial to have a way to store that energy when the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing.
Thus the promise of the “flow battery.”
They’re massive, industrial sized batteries, somewhere in scale between a fish tank and swimming pool. They can reportedly last longer at peak power than even the best in-class lithium ion battery —like those found in Tesla cars.
They’re called “flow” batteries because a charged electrolyte goes back and forth between holding tanks, releasing energy.
Gates is also stoked about the fact that a flow battery could last for decades — even longer than lithium-ion batteries, which according to Gates, last for 1,500 charges (or two to three years).
A team at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is working on making flow batteries cheap and environmentally safe.
Solar paint: Turning any surface into a solar panel.
File under: Why didn’t I think of that?
Solar paint. It’s exactly what it sounds like.
“The idea behind solar paint is to make solar power much cheaper and easier to install,” Gates writes. “Almost any surface could be transformed into a cheap solar panel.”
Roofs. Cars. Cell phones. Walls.
All it takes is a few coats of technologically advanced paint with a light-sensitive dye on top, and voila, you’ve got electricity-generating paint, as developed by the UK’s University of Sheffield, the University of California-San Diego, and Lucelo Technologies in Texas.
“In theory, anyone could do this; it would be almost as straightforward as painting a wall in a house,” Gates says.
from Business Insider http://ift.tt/1Im0Osg