Heliogen Makes Solar Tech Breakthrough

Solar tech startup Heliogen, a client of Interactivism, announced last week a major breakthrough in solar energy technology. They are the first to achieve temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit) using concentrated solar energy. This is world-changing for carbon-heavy industrial manufacturing such as cement and steel production. Heliogen is backed by former Microsoft chair Bill Gates through his Gates Ventures firm, Swaroop “Kittu” Kolluri through his venture capital firm Neotribe, and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong through his investment firm Nant Capital.

Interactivism is helping Heliogen with UX design, data visualization and informatics design. A particular challenge was how to design for a brand identity that makes solar technology feel industrial rather than consumer focused. Petra Wennberg, Co-Founder and Partner at Interactivism “Everything from brand identity to data visualization has to be laser focused on helping Heliogen achieve its goals. On one level it’s about industrial processes and their unique technology, but on another level it’s really about saving the world.”

“The world has a limited window to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions” according to Bill Gross, CEO and Founder of Heliogen, and Founder and Chairman of 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.”

Heliogen is next aiming for temperatures exceeding 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,732 degrees Fahrenheit). These higher temperatures enable splitting water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen gasses, the ultimate clean fuel. Manufacturing hydrogen gas at scale using solar energy would be a significant step towards eliminating fossil fuels entirely.

Heliogen solar facility
Heliogen facility in Lancaster, California.

Idealab, the leading technology incubator, is the birthplace of both Heliogen and Interactivism.

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