V.C.s soon learned that investing in unproven “Hard” energy technologies was not as quickly lucrative as backing social networking and smartphone apps.
Many clean energy technologies require prolonged support to grow, Curt Carlson, a physicist and former president of SRI International, said, adding: “V.C.s hate that. They want to put in a slug of money and then have it scale itself, without having to put in a billion dollars.”
Ilan Gur, a materials scientist at Lawrence Berkeley and veteran of several clean energy start-ups, observed the experience of two Stanford graduate students with a new idea for more efficient solar technology.
At the time, Dr. Gur was working at the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E research agency as a program manager looking for new ways to commercialize clean energy technologies.
The powder resembled salt, but in fact, it is a breakthrough synthetic material known as a metal organic framework, or M.O.F.M.O.F.s eventually may transform fields from computing to energy and gas manufacturing.
Chemical-separation processes require a vast amount of energy, accounting for roughly 10 percent of all global energy consumption.
“A lot of people are saying this is a big issue because we need an innovation pipeline for energy technologies,” he said.