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Bill Gates backs a sunny start-up to replace fossil fuels

By Charlotte Ricca

California sunshine set to replace harmful cement manufacture

Bill Gates is backing a new venture called Heliogen, which could see sunlight replacing fossil fuels.

Heliogen has created the world’s first technology that can power heavy industry using carbon-free, ultra-high heat from the sun.

Chief executive and founder, Bill Gross, said Heliogen represents a technological leap forward in tackling industry and transport emissions that make up 75 per cent of the world’s carbon footprint.

Gates is one of a number of investors, which include venture capital firm Neotribe and investment firm Nant Capital, owned by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Heliogen uses software that aligns a large number of mirrors, which reflect sunlight onto a target, creating temperatures of up to 1,500C. This is almost three times hotter than other solar systems.

The temperatures are high enough to cleanly manufacture cement, which contributes around 8 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions – more than three times greater than aviation fuel (2.5 per cent).

“Today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions,” said 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.”

RECOMMENDED READING: UK Government launches £315m fund to decarbonise heavy industry

RECOMMENDED READING: European Investment Bank mulls gas-free future

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