clean energy company heliogen is transforming sunlight to create and replace fuels. after successfully concentrating solar energy to exceed temperatures greater than 1,000 degrees celsius, heliogen is now able to replace the use of fossil fuels in critical industrial processes, including the production of cement, steel, and petrochemicals.
images courtesy of heliogen
the achievement could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from these activities. backed by bill gates, heliogen’s mission is to create the world’s first technology that can commercially replace fossil fuels with carbon-free, ultra-high temperature heat from the sun and to transform sunlight into fuels at scale.
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 is able to achieve these temperatures using advanced computer vision software to hyper-accurately align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target.
with temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees celsius, heliogen is able to replace the fuel that generates greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes with solar energy for the first time. for instance, cement production – one of the industrial processes well suited to heliogen’s technology – alone accounts for more than 7 percent of global co2 emissions.
previous commercial concentrating solar thermal systems have been designed to reach temperatures of up to only 565 degrees celsius. this temperature is useful for power generation but insufficient for many industrial processes, which require much higher temperatures, traditionally reached through the burning of fossil fuels.
‘today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel, and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions,’ says bill gates. ‘these materials are everywhere in our lives but we don’t have any proven breakthroughs that will give us affordable, zero-carbon versions of them.
‘if we’re going to get to zero-carbon emissions overall, we have a lot of inventing to do. I’m pleased to have been an early backer of bill gross’s novel solar concentration technology. its capacity to achieve the high temperatures required for these processes is a promising development in the quest to one day replace fossil fuel.’
‘the world has a limited window to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,’ says bill gross, ceo and founder, heliogen, and founder and chairman, idealab. ‘we’ve made great strides in deploying clean energy in our electricity system. but electricity accounts for less than a quarter of global energy demand.’
‘heliogen represents a technological leap forward in addressing the other 75 percent of energy demand: the use of fossil fuels for industrial processes and transportation. with low-cost, ultra-high temperature process heat, we have an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to solving the climate crisis.’
kieron marchese I designboom
nov 25, 2019