My summary for MIT Tech Review: Energy Issue, 2016

Key takeaways from this special edition issue:

  1. Kaya Identity — Created by energy economist Yoichi Kaya at Tokyo University, and a team of carbon experts. The Kaya Identity is basically an equation for computing the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused by humans or a specific country. I learned about this formula from their Bill Gates Q&A, you can read more about the Kaya Identity equation here: and here:
  2. Breakthrough Energy Coalition — Breakthrough Energy Coalition is a global group of 28 high net worth investors from 10 countries committed to funding clean energy companies emerging from the initiatives of Mission Innovation, which was also announced at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
  3. Solar Chemicals, aka Artificial Photosynthesis — Solar chemical refers to a number of possible processes that harness solar energy by absorbing sunlight in a chemical reaction. The idea is conceptually similar to photosynthesis in plants, which converts solar energy into chemicals but without using living organisms, which is why it is also called artificial photosynthesis.

Notable Companies

Renewable energy industry is growing at an exponential rate. However, most of them are still in their early research stages. Here are some notable energy startups that everyone should know.

Tri Alpha Energy — Tri Alpha Energy, develops plasma fusion technologies for energy generation. The company was founded in 1998 and is based in Rancho. Check out this article, Tri Alpha Energy reportedly makes important breakthrough in developing fusion reactor

Terra Power (Website: — Led by Bill Gates and a fellow Microsoft billionaire, Nathan Myhrvold. TerraPower is a class of nuclear fast reactors called the traveling wave reactor(aka TWR). Initially developed in the 1950s, the TWR design resurfaced in the early 1990s, and was later patented by Intellectual Ventures, the company from which TerraPower was spun out of. Read: TerraPower Quietly Explores New Nuclear Reactor Strategy

Carbon Engineering — Carbon Engineering is a Calgary, Alberta-based company commercialising technology to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere. Read: Could this plant hold the key to generating fuel from CO2 emissions?

Ambri — Formerly Liquid Metal Battery Corporation (LMBC)) is an early-stage company working to develop and commercialise a new battery technology that will revolutionise grid-scale power storage. Their battery has the potential to cost significantly less than existing batteries. Ambri’s technology — the liquid metal battery — was developed at MIT in the lab of Professor Donald Sadoway.

What’s the key to using alternative energy, like solar and wind? Click the video to watch. (Source: TED, March 2012)

What’s the key to using alternative energy, like solar and wind? Storage — so we can have power on tap even when the sun’s not out and the wind’s not blowing. In this accessible, inspiring talk, Donald Sadoway takes to the blackboard to show us the future of large-scale batteries that store renewable energy. As he says: “We need to think about the problem differently. We need to think big. We need to think cheap.”

Supporting the scene

As an typical tech enthusiast like myself, I believe that we have the advantage to support the next energy breakthroughs — the simplest step, is by supporting people who are building such products.

Crowd-fund products are mostly early prototypes to validate certain problems. We should, and always help these group of passionate people by chip in a little bit of our cash.

Once we received those products, please give them your honest feedback so that they could improve on it further. Here are some renewable energy products that I backed on Kickstarter for the past years.

Solar Paper is the world’s smallest and lightest solar charger and is as thin as paper. Created by Yolk, a startup based in Seoul and Chicago. I managed to support this product through their Kickstarter project last year. I am using it to charge my Pebble Time and my iPhone 6s. Works wonderfully on any sunny days. Read more about their design ideas here,

“We believe good design, intelligent materials such as solar energy harnessing materials, and recyclable materials are better for the long term sustainability of our ecology and our businesses.” — Solight Design

Solight Design™ makes beautifully-architected and sustainable home lighting products that appeal to the design and environmentally conscious consumer. Read more about their product philosophy here:

Electricity is currently a rare commodity in many areas throughout Nepal. In this picture, my friends and I distributed a couple of SolarPuffs (pictured on the left)to villagers who does not have electricity source at home. Most of them are still relying on candles and fire.

Lastly, here is another interesting Kickstarter campaign, called Magno Power Generators. Magno Power generators create free electricity from thin air using magnetic forces. Please back them!:D

Thanks for reading!

by Teo Choong Ching, UX Designer at Viki Inc (