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Tech & Science Power Line: Investors bet on plasma hotter than the sun, and long-lasting batteries brought to you by Bill Gates

20:55  24 january  2020
20:55  24 january  2020 Source:   businessinsider.com.au

Scientists found a new way to get 'forever chemicals' linked to cancer out of our water. They're in the bloodstreams of 99% of Americans.

  Scientists found a new way to get 'forever chemicals' linked to cancer out of our water. They're in the bloodstreams of 99% of Americans. Researchers at Clarkson University are working with the US Air Force to remove a group of "forever chemicals" from water. The chemicals, known as PFAS, have been associated with cancer, liver damage, and developmental issues. They're found in food packaging, cookware, outdoor gear, and firefighting foam. The researchers found a way to zap the chemicals in a plasma reactor, effectively destroying the bond that allows them to stay in the body for life. Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories. More than 70 years ago, a group of chemicals known as PFAS promised to make people's lives easier and more efficient.

Plasma inside a fusion reactor called a tokamak Plasma inside a fusion reactor called a tokamak

Hello, and welcome to Power Line, a weekly clean-energy newsletter from Business Insider.

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  • Do you have any story tips or feedback? Shoot me an email at bjones@businessinsider.com.

It was a big week for science. Buckle up because we've got fusion. We've got batteries. We've got hydrogen!

The biggest bitcoin trust brought in a record $608 million last year - and most of it was from hedge funds

  The biggest bitcoin trust brought in a record $608 million last year - and most of it was from hedge funds Grayscale Investments had $US608 million in inflows in 2019, more than the previous six years combined. It's the largest asset manager for digital currency such as bitcoin. Almost three-quarters of Grayscale's 2019 assets raised came from institutional investors like hedge funds, the company said.Watch Bitcoin trade live on Markets Insider.Read more on Business Insider.It looks like cryptocurrency is here to stay. In 2019, Grayscale Investments, the largest asset manager for bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, saw $US608 million in inflows, its best year ever.

a large building: Fusion startup Tokamak Energy just raised $US87 million. The British company says it plans to put clean fusion energy on the grid by 2030. Fusion startup Tokamak Energy just raised $US87 million. The British company says it plans to put clean fusion energy on the grid by 2030.

What can you do with $US87 million? Get things hotter than the centre of the sun, apparently.

Earlier this week, a fusion startup raised $US87 million from investors including billionaire flavour mogul Hans-Peter Wild, heir to the Capri Sun fortune.

The company is using the cash to heat hydrogen plasma to 100 million degrees Celsius, which is more than six times hotter than the centre of the sun.

I've got questions.

Why so hot? One way to spur fusion is to heat up a special kind of hydrogen gas called plasma. A lot. Fusion reactions peak at hundreds of millions of degrees.

What's the company? Tokamak Energy. The British startup is named after the nuclear reactor typically used to generate fusion, called a tokamak. It's a Russian word that means "toroidal chamber with an axial magnetic field," (which I have committed, forever, to memory.)

Power Line: Introducing a new clean-energy newsletter from Business Insider, and a look at the top clean-energy startups

  Power Line: Introducing a new clean-energy newsletter from Business Insider, and a look at the top clean-energy startups Hello, and welcome to Power Line, a weekly clean-energy newsletter from Business Insider. I'm Benji Jones, a science-turned-energy reporter based in our New York office. I collected baseball-sized apple snails as a kid and did my high-school history fair project on global warming. I haven't changed much since then.I'm Benji Jones, a science-turned-energy reporter based in our New York office. I collected baseball-sized apple snails as a kid and did my high-school history fair project on global warming. I haven't changed much since then.

What does Capri Sun have to do with fusion? I'm not sure.

When will fusion energy hit the grid?The company says it's aiming for 2030. Here's what experts think.

  • 2030 is "very optimistic," according to Louis Brasington, an analyst at Cleantech Group. He says even if you get the tech working there will be years worth of regulatory speed bumps. Late 2030s or 2040s would be a safer bet.
  • It's not impossible, but "a lot of things have to go right," Jon Menard, the deputy director for research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) told me.

When lithium-ion batteries don't cut it

If you don't know her, you should. I'm talking about lithium-ion, the most popular battery.

  • As I wrote today, they're in nearly every portable electronic and electric vehicle, and will continue to dominate the battery market for the foreseeable future, experts say.
  • And for good reason: Lithium-ion has a high energy density, it doesn't degrade easily, and it's relatively lightweight.

But: Even the best batteries have shortcomings. And for Li-ion, it's long-duration storage. I'm talking about discharging energy for hundreds of hours or more.

Storms cut power to thousands of homes across south east Queensland

  Storms cut power to thousands of homes across south east Queensland Energex crews are working to restore power to customers who supply was cut during severe storms in south east Queensland, with the weather bringing strong winds, heavy rain and hail.Storm warnings issued earlier today have since been cancelled.

  • That's because Li-ion batteries don't scale well - meaning, their cost grows roughly in step with their duration, according to the head of energy storage at Wood Mackenzie, Dan Finn-Foley.
  • Long-duration storage with Li-ion is thus really expensive.

… and why do we care? Thank you for asking.

  • You can't have a high proportion of renewable energy in the grid unless you have long-lasting batteries that are able to discharge a ton of power.
  • Without them, you have to run carbon-emitting power plants in times when there's no wind or sun, and there's a big movement to get rid of those.

Good thing there are startups working on cheap, long-duration storage. Better yet, some of them have that Bill Gates money.

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Form's CEO and cofounder Mateo Jaramillo Form's CEO and cofounder Mateo Jaramillo

He built Tesla's energy storage business. Now he's got his own battery company backed by Bill Gates.

Today I profiled Form Energy, a long-duration battery startup that everyone is talking about. Here's why:

  • At its helm is Mateo Jaramillo, a former VP at Tesla who built its energy storage company. He's just one of the startup's cofounders who are all battery-famous.
  • Form has big backers: Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the energy giant Eni, and Saudi Aramco, to name a few.
  • So far, the startup has declined to reveal specifics, for fear of overhyping its product. It hasn't said much about what it has in the works.
  • But at least one of its products is likely a sulphur flow battery. Unlike lithium-ion, flow batteries become cheaper as you scale them because the electrical charge comes from external tanks of liquid.

Hydrogen: A teaser

A coalition backed by Bill Gates is funding biotechs that are scrambling to develop vaccines for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus

  A coalition backed by Bill Gates is funding biotechs that are scrambling to develop vaccines for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus The biotech Moderna said Thursday it is working with the National Institutes of Health to develop a coronavirus vaccine, as the deadly virus has spread beyond China in recent days. The effort is funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a group started by Norway and India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the World Economic Forum. CEPI is also supporting vaccine-development efforts from the biotech Inovio and the University of Queensland Moderna said the NIH will soon run early studies to allow for human testing, with plans to start a clinical trial in the US.

I have had not one but TWO dreams about hydrogen gas this week. Perhaps, spending a day and a half on a deep-dive into the industry has something to do with it. That story will be out next week.

Here are two surprising things I learned about hydrogen:

  1. We use it to make industrial products like ammonia (used, in turn, to make fertiliser) and to refine oil.
  2. Though it's all around us in one form or another, nearly all hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels. Experts see a big opportunity to green the industry.

Are there other energy-related industries you want explained? Let me know.

a close up of a sign: Starbucks is one of the latest corporate giants to announce a carbon-cutting pledge Starbucks is one of the latest corporate giants to announce a carbon-cutting pledge

#climatechangegoals

The wave of companies setting carbon-reduction targets is continuing to build in 2020. Here are some of the latest and largest:

  • Microsoft: Late last week, we reported on Microsoft's pledge to be "carbon negative" by 2030. I compiled a list of the top startups that are working on carbon capture and utilization tech that could help them get there.
  • Arizona Public Service: Arizona's largest utility announced that 100% of its power will come from carbon-free sources by 2050.
    • "The commitment is an about-face for an electric utility that poured $US37.9 million into a campaign to defeat a ballot initiative that would have required it to generate 50 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2030," the Washington Post writes.
  • Starbucks: Carbon negative? How about "resource positive." That's what Starbucks announced it was aiming for on Tuesday. The coffee giant set a preliminary target of halving emissions from "its operations and direct supply chain" by 2030.

3 big stories I didn't cover

DirecTV is moving one of its satellites to a safer orbit over fears of explosion

  DirecTV is moving one of its satellites to a safer orbit over fears of explosion DirecTV fears that one of its satellites in orbit might blow up soon, and it’s gearing up to move it to safety. Due to a problem with the satellite’s batteries, the satellite might burst apart at the end of February. If it did explode while in its current orbit, there's a chance it could damage active satellites nearby, which is why the company would like to get it out of the way.The satellite on the verge of bursting is Spaceway-1, a vehicle built by Boeing launched in 2005, as first reported by Space News. Spaceway-1 has been orbiting along a path known as geostationary orbit, 22,000 miles above Earth.

  1. VC investment in battery storage companies doubled between 2018 and 2019, with lithium-ion technologies attracting a lion's share of the capital, according to Mercom Capital Group.
  2. Oil and gas giants spend 1% of their total capex outside oil and gas. The International Energy Agency plans to conduct annual reviews to "assess how they're doing on climate change and clean energy issues." (Axios)
  3. At Davos, loads of companies said they "they would aim to lower their emissions of planet-warming gases to net-zero by 2050 or earlier." (New York Times)

Finally, here are this week's top deals

It was a slow week.

  • Tokamak Energy raised $US87 million.
  • ConnectDER, a smart-grid startup based in Virginia, raised $US7.3 million from investors including Clean Energy Ventures and Skyview Ventures.
  • GridBeyond, another smart-grid company, raised $US12 million from Total and a handful of other investors, according to the research platform i3.

That's it! I'm off to Miami for the weekend, where it's 76 degrees … and iguana are hopefully not still falling out of trees.

- Benji

The most detailed photos and videos of the sun's surface ever captured reveal Texas-sized cells of boiling plasma .
The highest-resolution photos and video ever taken of the sun's surface show it covered in Texas-sized blobs of boiling plasma. The images come from the new Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawai'i.The National Science Foundation (NSF) released the data and images from the first observations from its Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawai'i on Wednesday. The photos and videos reveal a pattern of roiling plasma that blankets the sun's surface. Each cell-like structure is about the size of Texas.

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