Heliogen, an energy company which has been working in “stealth mode” with financial backing from Bill Gates and other high-profile environmental investors, has unveiled what it says is a breakthrough solar technology to provide industrial heat for the production of cement, steel and petrochemicals.
The company emerged from stealth mode this week after building and testing its new technology which it claims uses artificial intelligence and a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target and generate temperatures greater than 1,000°C.
The basic concept of ‘concentrated solar power’ is not new, of course, but traditional CSP only generates temperatures up to 565°C.
Heliogen’s new patented “HelioMax” technology, on the other hand, generates temperatures in excess of 1,000°C – the levels needed the for these industrial processes.
Traditional industrial processes for producing cement, steel, and petrochemicals required fossil fuel energy generation to produce the higher temperatures necessary and are carbon intensive. For example, cement production currently accounts for over 7% of global CO2 emissions – a sizeable chunk of the planet’s untenable emissions.
However, by generating such levels of temperature generation, Heliogen’s HelioMax technology could replace fossil fuel generation in industrial processes, helping to dramatically reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions.
Further, Heliogen’s technology roadmap aims to increase temperature generation up to 1,500°C – a temperature which would allow it to perform CO2- and water-splitting to make 100% fossil-free fuels such as hydrogen or syngas.
The HelioMax technology uses a combination of advanced computer vision software to hyper-accurately align a large array of mirrors which in turn reflect sunlight to a single target.
The company describes it’s HelioHeat production method as a “patented closed-loop control system that makes our field of mirrors act as a multi-acre magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight.”
In addition to being able to generate heat enough for industrial processes, the company is also working to use its technology to create clean and renewable fuel, which it is calling HelioFuel.
Heliogen is backed by four high-profile investors including tech entrepreneur Bill Gates, Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri of Neotribe Ventures, Patrick Soon-Shiong of NantWorks, and Steve Case of Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund. The firm’s founder and chief executive officer is Bill Gross, a lifelong entrepreneur and founder of Idealab.
“The world has a limited window to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said 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.”
“Today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel, and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions,” added 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.”