Move Over, Edison: Say Hello to Steampunk
If you thought air was just for breathing, Danielle Fong has a surprise for you. No, it’s still not edible. But the 24-year-old Princeton dropout and co-founder of LightSail Energy is developing perhaps the next best thing: air-based energy.
By storing the excess energy produced by gas, coal, wind and solar power in giant tanks of compressed air, Fong hopes to reinvent the power grid.
Unlike other power systems, which cater to energy expectations and often lose much of their energy supply to the costs of maintenance, Fong’s system functions according to a less wasteful ethic. Retaining about 70 percent of stored energy, her tanks can transform air into power precisely when it is actually needed. As such, Fong’s innovation could potentially provide an exponential boost to worldwide energy efficiency.
And you thought smartphones were cool?
However, as Wired’s Caleb Garling explains, the tanks probably face a long road to actual implementation. Seemingly influenced by Steampunk, “that science-fiction literary genre that re-imagines Victorian technology in a post-apocalyptic future,” the tanks may remain alien to the ambitions of leading power companies for a good while. No matter what Fong boasts about the efficiency of her product, over one hundred years of failed attempts at similar innovations have left many executives feeling hesitant about the practicality of such machines.
Do you think compressed-air energy has a future? At the very least, Fong’s prototypes are awesome.
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