This Bill Gates-Backed Solar Startup Just Had a Breakthrough That Could Cut the World’s Carbon Emissions by 20 Percent​

Los Angeles-based startup Heliogen, backed by Bill Gates and AOL founder Steve Case just announced that it has found a way to replace fossil fuels in industrial plants. Those plants produce more than 20 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, but Heliogen’s new concentrated solar technology may change that. It can create heat over 1,000 degrees Celsius, potentially replacing much of the fossil fuels these plants currently use.

You wouldn’t think that making something really, really, really hot would be the best way to fight climate change. But it is, because the production of steel, cement, and petrochemicals among others requires heating them to very high temperatures. Up till now, the only way to achieve this was with fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil.

For decades, the solar industry has been trying to produce the high temperatures needed for such manufacturing with concentrated solar–basically a very much larger version of the experiment you probably did as a child, starting a fire using sunlight and a magnifying glass. Concentrated solar companies have traditionally used hundreds of mirrors to reflect the sun’s beams onto a single spot.

It requires a great deal of precision and engineering skill to determine the precise angle of each mirror in order to point the beam at exactly the right spot, and then to keep changing the mirror’s position as the sun moves across the sky. Despite its best efforts, the concentrated solar industry was never able to create temperatures higher than 600 degrees Celsius, which is certainly very hot, but not hot enough for things like steel or cement manufacture.

Heliogen’s breakthrough is that, rather than trying to predict precisely where the sun’s beams will land, it uses cameras to observe where sunbeams are going and make minute adjustments several times per second in order to keep the mirrors pointed in precisely the right direction.

Using this approach, Heliogen says it’s been able to achieve temperatures of more than 1,000 Celsius. And that was on its first try. The company believes it can produce temperatures above 1,500 Celsius–enough to split water molecules and produce hydrogen fuel. That could solve hydrogen fuel’s biggest problem, which is that the energy needed to produce it negates any environmental gains from using it.

Cement alone contributes 8 percent of greenhouse gases

“I don’t know how many people will understand how significant breaking 1,000 C is,” Heliogen founder Bill Gross told GeekWire. Gross is a serial entrepreneur who also founded the tech incubator Idealab. [Disclosure: I am also a GeekWire contributor.] Here’s why Gross said getting above 1,000 using solar is such a big deal: “There’s all these things that happen above 1,000 C. Cement is made above 1,000 C. Steel is made above 1,000 C.

Hydrogen is made above 1,000 C.” But, he added, even if the lay person isn’t particularly excited by what Heliogen has achieved, “In the industry, it’s going to be really, really spectacular.” He added that cement production alone accounts for 8 percent of global CO2 emissions so a switch to concentrated solar in that industry alone would have a huge impact.

Gross said he was inspired to start Heliogen after attending Bill Gates’ 2010 TEDx talk in Long Beach, California, “Innovating to zero!” In the talk, Gates said that if he could be granted a single wish for the next 50 years, it would be for someone to invent a technology that would lower the cost of energy and eliminate CO2 emissions at the same time. Afterward, Gross went up to Gates and expressed his interest in working on such a technology.

Gates invited Gross to Seattle for a brainstorming session during which Gates and Gross bounced around ideas with other Gates Foundation leaders. “We talked about all the different ways that this could happen, and that was the beginning of thinking through the different technical challenges and ways to pull this off,” Gross said. “And he’s just been fantastic. Of course he’s going around the world telling everybody about this.”

Heliogen’s technological breakthrough depends in part on the growing availability and affordability of GPU, or graphic processing units, something that gamers need to play today’s graphically intense games. So if Heliogen succeeds in its mission to replace fossil fuels in high-heat manufacturing and eliminate a signficant portion of carbon emissions? You may have kids playing Fortnite to thank.

By Minda ZetlinCo-author, The Geek Gap

Source: This Bill Gates-Backed Solar Startup Just Had a Breakthrough That Could Cut the World’s Carbon Emissions by 20 Percent​

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… , With Momentum Toward Commercial Hydrogen Fuel Creation Heliogen – Replacing Fuels with Sunlight…


Can We Really Use The Moon’s Billion-Year Old Water To Make Rocket Fuel And Open Up The Cosmos?

The moon has water. That’s great news for a future moon-base, but it’s also often talked-up as a resource for creating rocket fuel. Last week NASA announced that it would send a mobile robot, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the South Pole of the Moon to find the exact location and concentration of water ice in the region. “The key to living on the Moon is water—the same as here on Earth,” said Daniel Andrews, project manager of the VIPER mission and director of engineering at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. “Since the confirmation of lunar water-ice ten years ago, the question now is if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world.”

Another theory goes that if we can use the water on the moon—which is locked-up as ice, but we’ll worry about that later—to power spacecraft, they will be able to go way, way further into the cosmos and kick-start a new era of interstellar mining. Water on the moon would make future Mars missions more affordable and could fuel commercial enterprises that link Earth and the Moon. “Creating space fuel depots would allow spacecraft to travel much farther and allow missions and satellites to sustain operations,” says Karen Panetta, IEEE Fellow, Dean for Graduate Education, Tufts University. “Rather than transporting water into space in heavy loads on rockets, the goal is to extract it (mine it) from the moon and asteroids.” It would also mean rockets don’t have to expend a lot of fuel just to get the fuel for their entire up into space with them. Launch costs would plummet.

Today In: Innovation

Wait. Water into rocket fuel? Surely you cannot fuel a rocket with water; liquid-fuel rockets use liquid oxygen and either kerosene or liquid hydrogen. Ah … oxygen and hydrogen.

So what’s the science behind making rocket fuel from moon-water and asteroid-ice?

How do you make rocket fuel from water?

“Water—h2o—consists of hydrogen and oxygen, which can be refined into high-efficiency fuel,” says Panetta. It’s all about water electrolysis, a technique that uses an electric current (in space, from solar panels) to break down compounds and convert them into something else. In this case, hydrogen fuel. “Electrolysis is one approach that has been used in space to separate h2o to provide oxygen supplies for manned space missions, which helped alleviate the need for high-pressure oxygen storage tanks,” she says. On the International Space Station astronauts use electrolysis to split oxygen from hydrogen in water.

Why don’t we already make rocket fuel from water on Earth?

We could, but water is a precious commodity on Earth. It’s also not economical, and in any case, we’re talking about pretty small amounts of fuel needed by spacecraft. “Propelling an object in zero gravity doesn’t need much fuel, so water offers a viable solution in space,” says Panetta. However, water molecules are already used in many launch systems, albeit in their cryogenic liquid state to increase their density. “Couple this with solar energy for reliable power and it opens up new avenues for not just space exploration, but also for autonomous mining operations,” says Panetta.

Yup—autonomous mining is what the “water into rocket fuel” debate is really all about.

How water-ice at the moon’s South Pole will be ‘mined’

Get ready for autonomous robots on the moon. A lot of work will be needed on developing reliable autonomous mining techniques for docking, drilling, detecting and repairing equipment. “The robots will use artificial intelligence to gather information and communicate among each other what they learn, so each robot doesn’t have to relearn everything from scratch, but rather, just upgrade their knowledge and data models,” says Panetta.

How old is the water-ice at the Moon’s South Pole?

A new study published in the journal Icarus suggests that while a majority of those deposits are likely billions of years old, some may be much more recent. While most of the ice deposits are in patches on the floors of large craters formed about 3.1 billion years or longer ago, the researchers also found evidence for ice in smaller and relatively young craters. It’s argued that older ice could have been sourced from water-bearing comets and asteroids hitting the moon, while newer water-ice might come from bombardment from pea-sized micrometeorites.

What about mining asteroids? 

The technology is likely to be perfected on the moon. “Landing and taking off again from an asteroid adds another dimension of challenges,” says Panetta. However, asteroids are a much more exciting prospect. “C-type asteroids contain potentially up to 20% water by mass and will be good targets for mining (and) M-type asteroids contain structural metals like iron, nickel and cobalt which can be used to build structures in space using 3D printing,” says Panetta. It would therefore be possible to fabricate spare parts on site from mined materials, allowing robots to repair each other and drilling equipment.

As natural resources become depleted on Earth, successfully mining and transporting them back could become big business.

Is any of this going to happen soon?

That depends on technology. “The combination of solar energy, artificial intelligence, robotics and materials science are truly responsible for enabling mining in space to become a reality,” says Panetta. “Don’t be surprised if the first successful mining operation on the moon is announced within the next five years.”

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist interested in space exploration, moon-gazing, exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, astro-travel, wildlife conservation and nature. I’m the editor of and the author of “A Stargazing Program for Beginners: A Pocket Field Guide” (Springer, 2015), as well as many eclipse-chasing guides.

Source: Can We Really Use The Moon’s Billion-Year Old Water To Make Rocket Fuel And Open Up The Cosmos?

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NASA is sending a mobile robot to the south pole of the Moon to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice in the region and for the first time ever, actually sample the water ice at the same pole where the first woman and next man will land in 2024 under the Artemis program. About the size of a golf cart, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, will roam several miles, using its four science instruments — including a 1-meter drill — to sample various soil environments. Planned for delivery in December 2022, VIPER will collect about 100 days of data that will be used to inform development of the first global water resource maps of the Moon. Learn more:… Video credit: NASA/Ames Research Center The video may be downloaded at:…

Norway’s Equinor Shows Big Oil Can Survive Putting A Price On Carbon – Christopher Helman


Norway, thanks to decades of oil and gas drilling in its coastal waters, has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, with more than $1 trillion in invested assets. That’s equivalent to roughly $200,000 for each of the 5.2 million Norwegians. Rare among those struck with the “resource curse,” Norwegians feel kind of sheepish about owing their birthright to fossil fuels. Among the world’s most zealous environmentalist states, Norway has pledged to become “climate neutral” by 2030, and has imposed all manner of emissions trading and carbon taxes to get there…….

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