The Thiel Foundation has announced three new grants awarded to AVEtec, General Genomics, and Siva Therapeutics through Breakout Labs, its revolving fund to promote innovation in science and technology.
The most recent award takes the program into clean energy, with a bold new proposal to harness the power of atmospheric vortexes. AVEtec is the brainchild of Canadian engineer, Louis Michaud. His Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE) harnesses the physics of tornados to produce extremely cheap and clean energy. In his design, warm or humid air is introduced into a circular station, where it takes the form of a rising vortex, i.e. a controlled tornado. The temperature difference between this heated air and the atmosphere above it supports the vortex and drives multiple turbines. The vortex can be shut down at any time by turning off the source of warm air.
Among its advantages over other sources of energy, AVE power generation neither produces carbon emissions nor needs energy storage. AVEtec projects that the cost of the energy it generates could be as low as three cents per kilowatt hour, making it one of the least expensive forms of energy production. An AVE power station could have a diameter of 100 meters and generate 200 megawatts of electrical power, the same order of magnitude as conventional coal power stations.
"The power in a tornado is undisputed," said Michaud. "My work has established the principles by which we can control and exploit that power to provide clean energy on an unprecedented scale. With the funding from Breakout Labs, we are building a prototype in partnership with Lambton College to demonstrate the feasibility and the safety of the atmospheric vortex engine."
Additional Breakout Labs grants were also recently awarded to General Genomics and Siva Therapeutics. General Genomics uses ancestral DNA sequence reconstruction to radically improve the efficiency with which protein- and peptide-based therapeutics, as well as industrially-relevant enzymes, can be developed. Siva Therapeutics is developing therapies with the potential to be more effective, safer, less expensive and less invasive by exploiting the biophysical properties of gold nanorods engineered to capture infrared light and emit heat that destroys diseased tissue.
"Our three newest grant recipients—AVEtec, General Genomics, and Siva Therapeutics—are vastly different in their technologies, company strategies and goals," said Lindy Fishburne, executive director, Breakout Labs. "What unites them is ground-breaking science coupled with the passion, vision and creativity of their founders. We are delighted to bring them into the Breakout Labs community."
Launched in November 2011, Breakout Labs provides early-stage companies with the means to pursue their most radical goals in science and technology. To date Breakout Labs has awarded a total of 12 grants of up to $350,000 each. Breakout Labs accepts and funds proposals on a rolling basis