In June 2017, Professor Ernesto Julio Calvo won the DSM Bright Minds Challenge for Inquimae. Traditionally, lithium - the lifeblood of battery technology - is available through one source and one source only: extraction from giant salt lakes or ‘flats. It’s a very slow process that wastes millions of gallons of water while releasing sodium chloride and magnesium sulfate waste into the air and soil. Or at least, it was. Ernesto’s revolutionary electrochemical method uses solar power to extract the lithium…but with zero environmental impact.
Three finalists of the global Bright Minds Challenge for the most promising solar and energy storage solutions to move our planet towards 100% renewable energy were announced on 12 April in Somerville, MA, U.S.A. at Greentown Labs, the largest cleantech incubator in the U.S. The finalists are Cellulike (Tanzania) a pay as you go model for micro-grid solar power distribution systems, Inquimae (Argentina) a sustainable energy storage project from renewable energy sources (solar and wind) for remote electrification and Solar Ear (Brazil), focusing on solar powered hearing aids for the most impoverished communities across the globe.
The Bright Minds Challenge was created by DSM together with partners Accenture; Chinese National Center of Supervision and Inspection on Solar Photovoltaic Products Quality (CPVT), Greentown Labs; U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, University of Oxford; Solarcentury; SolarAid and Sungevity.
The consortium will provide the finalists with a customized package of commercial, technical and mentoring support to help them bring their prototypes to market as rapidly as possible. In June the winner will be announced and will receive 500 hours (an equivalent of more than USD $100,000) of tailored support to fast-forward their solution.
At the event, the 10 nominees selected by the general public presented their solutions to a panel of expert judges, who ranked the nominees on the basis of societal impact, commercial scalability, uniqueness, technical quality and the quality of their presentation.
Pieter Wolters, Managing Director of DSM Venturing and chairman of the jury commented: “The Bright Minds Challenge aims to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and unlocking the potential of bright minds around the world. With this initiative we help them to take their scientific solution to the next step for the benefit of society as a whole. These three finalists have shown they are ready to take it to next level and make a difference in turning solar and energy storage into the renewable energy source of choice.”