Heliogen’s new tech can replace fossil fuels in critical industrial processes

It’s no secret that Bill Gates, Microsoft’s father, cares about the climate issue. The “passion” of the second richest man in the world led him to invest in Heliogen, the clean energy startup that has developed a revolutionary technology that could save the planet, by massively reducing industrial CO2 emissions.

Improvements in the field of solar power for a long time went mainly in one way, through cheaper production of photovoltaic cells. But there is another way to get energy from the sun. By using mirrors, it is possible to concentrate light in a single point, where very high temperatures are reached that can be used for various purposes. Such systems have existed for a long time, but now a way has been found to make them more efficient.

Heliogen has announced a technological breakthrough. It has discovered a way to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a field of mirrors to reflect enough sunlight to produce extreme temperatures. The startup has, in fact, managed to reach record temperatures of 1000 degrees Celsius and above. And the higher the temperature, the easier it is to convert thermal energy into electrical energy.

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a field of mirrors to reflect enough sunlight to produce extreme temperature.
Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a field of mirrors to reflect enough sunlight to produce extreme temperature.

Previously such systems managed to reach only 565 degrees – useful for power generation, but insufficient for many industrial processes.

“In addition to industrial process heat, Heliogen’s technology roadmap calls for temperatures up to 1,500 degrees Celsius. At that temperature, Heliogen can perform CO2-splitting and water-splitting to make 100 percent fossil-free fuels such as hydrogen or syngas,” Heliogen explains in a release.

Heliogen’s technology uses advanced computer vision software to hyper-accurately align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target. This creates a heat that is nearly three times as intense as previous commercial solar systems.

The Bill Gates-backed solar startup wants to exploit this zero-emission technology not only to produce electricity but for all those processes that require high temperatures, such as those for the production of steel, glass, and cement. Only the cement industry is responsible for 7% of the total CO2 emissions.

In this way, industries could have an economical and sustainable alternative available. Such industries cannot be fully relied on the energy of the sun, as they must work around the clock. However, the development of Heliogen could allow them to burn much less coal and other fossil energy sources.

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