One of the biggest unsolved challenges with finding cleaner ways to produce energy isn’t actually in the production of power itself.
There are lots of ways to produce clean power including windmills, solar, geothermal, and hydropower – but all of these production methods share the same issue of energy storage.
Storage of power is notoriously inefficient with batteries often losing anywhere from 10% to 40% of their power through discharge.
Much of this is due to the current underlying design of batteries, the most efficient of which are designed using lithium-ion.
Lithium-ion batteries are expensive to make, hard to recycle, and extremely toxic to the environment.
This is why tech giants like Bill Gates and Elon Musk are seeking ways to build a better battery.
Tesla made early breakthroughs to convert to nickel-based batteries, and earlier this year, the company began to explore the use of iron-based batteries that will be much cheaper to produce than lithium-ion.
Bill Gates recently made headlines when his power-oriented venture firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures funded a small start-up called Fourth Power.
Fourth Power has hit upon a novel way to store energy by converting renewable power into heat which is stored in liquid tin.
When needed, the heat is then transferred to carbon blocks which are converted back into energy through discharge using thermophotovoltaic cells.
While this process isn’t for small storage use, the process is very clean and very renewable.
With the funding, the company is seeking to build a prototype plant in the Boston area capable of powering up to 1000 houses by 2026.