LightSail Energy, a startup that is building a compressed-air energy storage system, just got a big cash infusion. The Berkeley-based company said Monday that it has raised $37.3 million in funding. The series “D” invement round was led by PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel and included the leader of LightSail’s last investment round, Khosla Ventures, as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
LightSail was founded by Danielle Fong (see “Innovators Under 35: Danielle Fong, 24”), who hopes to make it more practical and economical to use clean energy by using tanks of compressed air to store it. While the general idea of storing electricity generated by solar panels or wind turbines as compressed air in a big tank isn’t a new one, it has historically been quite inefficient because the temperature of air can rise to nearly 1,000 °C as it’s being compressed. LightSail takes a different approach by spraying water into the air as it is being compressed to help manage the temperature change.
LightSail’s process works like this: Electricity from a wind turbine drives a motor that powers an air compressor. Water is sprayed into the air during the compression process to absorb heat. The mix of water and air is then ejected from the compressor chamber and sent through an air and water separator, yielding relatively dry air and liquid water, which are stored in large tanks. To harness the energy that has been stored this way, you just run the process in reverse.
The cash will undoubtedly help LightSail move forward: it’s working to ship pilot units of its storage system late next year or the year after.
Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free
Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3
The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus
The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.
Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging
The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.
Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI
One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.