When I was in college, my friend, Hannah, and I were studying for Winter finals in the library. It was cold out, and neither of us felt like making the trek back to the dorm, so Hannah texted her partner, Adam, to pick up her computer charger. When Adam got to the room, the first thing to catch his eye was a flower pot that was shooting out flames. You see, Hannah had a magnifying makeup mirror sitting on the windowsill; at one point, the sun hit the mirror perfectly in a way that the light bounced off and set her Venus Flytrap aflame. The great minds behind Heliogen are harnessing this exact energy.
Now imagine hundreds of giant magnifying makeup mirrors all angled so that the sunlight they’re reflecting points at one exact spot: that’s what Heliogen is. When all of the mirrors focus the light energy into one point, the system is able to generate over 2000°F of heat. This is approximately a fifth of the temperature of the sun, created by human technology. This concentrated solar power is more than enough to power the cement, steel, and mining industries fossil-fuel-free.
The cement industry creates roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. The steel industry produces around 7-9% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Mining, of any kind, is responsible for 26% of all carbon emissions. This means that this technology can theoretically remove almost half of our global carbon emissions. Heliogen can power these industries by creating hydrogen fuel without the polluting byproduct. Currently, hydrogen fuel is produced by burning and separating methane. By now, we all know how detrimental methane is for the environment, when considering how expansive these industries are all over the world it’s easy to comprehend how they generate as much pollution as they do.
— Heliogen (@heliogeninc) November 19, 2019
Heliogen can create hydrogen fuel sustainably without any of the emissions. If a little over 2600°F of heat is applied to water molecules, they split into the respective hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Bill Gross, the founder of Heliogen, confirmed that his team has already achieved about that temperature. “Our goal long term is to use solar energy to split the water molecule, make fully green hydrogen, and that could really have an impact on reducing fossil fuel use, and of course, reducing CO2 emissions.”
Given all that this miracle technology can do, it comes as no surprise that Heliogen is backed by Bill Gates. In a statement shared on the website, Gates says, “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 wholeheartedly agree with Bill Gates. Ideas and inventions are going to save this planet. However, not all of them have to be as groundbreaking as Heliogen technology. We all have different talents, each and every industry out there can afford to be more sustainable. I know that each and everyone one of you that read my posts here on Peaceful Dumpling care just as much as I do about the future of our planet. Each of us has the power to change our small corners of the world in our own way. Share the knowledge, brainstorm ways to make your daily lives, at home and at work, more sustainable, and we will get there together.
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Photo: Heliogen solar system via press release from Heliogen