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The importance of energy transition collaborations, UH solar research project, and more top stories

A recap of a panel from FUZE — and more top energy transition articles from this week. Photo courtesy of Digital Wildcatters

Editor's note: It's been a busy news week for energy transition in Houston, and some of this week's headlines resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter. Trending news included a recap from a recent energy transition panel, self-driving freight lanes coming soon, and more.

Houston research team develops breakthrough process for light-harvesting crystals in DOE-backed project

Rice University engineers and collaborators developed a technology that converts light into electricity. Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

A team of Rice researchers have developed a breakthrough synthesis process for developing light-harvesting materials that can be used in solar cells to convert light into electricity.

Detailed in an October study in Nature Synthesis, the new process is able to more closely control the temperature and time of the crystallization process to create 2D halide perovskites with semiconductor layers of “ideal thickness and purity,” according to a release from Rice.

The process, known as kinetically controlled space confinement, was developed by Rice University chemical and biomolecular engineer Aditya Mohite, along with others at Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Rennes. The research was backed by the Department of Energy, the Army Research Office, the National Science Foundation and a number of other organizations. Read more.

Addressing the need for collaboration in Houston's energy transition

The Houston energy transition ecosystem is primed for collaborative partnerships – but here's what to keep in mind. Photo courtesy of Digital Wildcatters

When it comes to advancing the energy transition in Houston and beyond, experts seem to agree that collaborations between all major stakeholders is extremely important.

In fact, it was so important that it was the first panel of the second day of FUZE, an energy-focused conference put on by Digital Wildcatters. EnergyCapital HTX and InnovationMap were the event's media partners, and I, as editor of these news outlets, moderated the panel about collaborations.

I wanted to take a second to reflect on the conversation I had with the panelists earlier this week, as I believe their input and expertise — from corporate and nonprofit to startup and investing — was extremely valuable to the greater energy transition community. Read more.

Self-driving trucking facility opens in Houston, readies for 2024 launch in Texas

Texas is one step closer to seeing a Houston-to-Dallas driverless truck route on I-45. Photo courtesy of Aurora

Houston is emerging as a major player in the evolution of self-driving freight trucks.

In October, Aurora Innovation opened a more than 90,000-square-foot terminal at a Fallbrook Drive logistics hub in northwest Houston to support the launch of its first “lane” for driverless trucks — a Houston-to-Dallas route on I-45. Aurora opened its Dallas-area terminal in April.

Close to half of truck freight in Texas moves along I-45 between Houston and Dallas. Read more.

Houston VC invests in early stage California biodegradable plastics startup

Algenesis bills its patented Soleic technology as the world’s first renewable, high-performance, fully biodegradable, and backyard-compostable polyurethane made from plants and algae. Photo via AlgenesisMaterials.com

Houston-based venture capital firm First Bight Ventures led a $5 million seed round for Encinitas, California-based startup Algenesis, a developer of biodegradable plastics.

Algenesis bills its patented Soleic technology as the world’s first renewable, high-performance, fully biodegradable, and backyard-compostable polyurethane made from plants and algae. Each year, 25 million tons of hard-to-recycle polyurethane are produced for the footwear, medical, and textile industries. Polyurethane, typically made from petroleum, usually ends up as landfill waste or environmental microplastics.

Algenesis says Soleic can biodegrade in compost within a matter of months and does not contain harmful PFAS chemicals found in other plastics. Read more.

Energy transition in Houston is going to 'take time and be hard'

Wogbe Ofori, founder and chief strategist of WRX Companies, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss hardtech and Houston as an energy transition city. Photo via LinkedIn

The energy transition has momentum, according to Wogbe Ofori. But there's still a ways to go.

Ofori, the founder and chief strategist of WRX Companies, is an adviser to Nauticus Robotics and strategist to Intuitive Machines and Jacobs, he's also served as a mentor across the local innovation community. He's narrowed in on hardtech and has has gotten a front-row seat to observing what's happening in Houston amid the energy transition, as he explains on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Read more.

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A View From HETI

Boulder, Colorado-based ION Clean Energy announces it has raised $45 million in financing. Photo via Getty Images

Chevron New Energies has a new cleantech company in its portfolio.

Boulder, Colorado-based ION Clean Energy announces it has raised $45 million in financing. The round was led by Chevron New Energies with participation from New York-based Carbon Direct Capital. Founded in 2008, ION's carbon dioxide capture technologies lower costs and make CO2 capture a more viable option for hard-to-abate emissions.

“We have truly special solvent technology. It is capable of very high capture efficiency with low energy use while simultaneously being exceptionally resistant to degradation with virtually undetectable emissions. That’s a pretty powerful combination that sets us apart from the competition. The investments from Chevron and Carbon Direct Capital are a huge testament to the hard work of our team and the potential of our technology,” ION founder and Executive Chairman Buz Brown says in a news release. “We appreciate their collaboration and with their investments we expect to accelerate commercial deployment of our technology so that we can realize the kind of wide-ranging commercial and environmental impact we’ve long envisioned.”

The funding will go toward ION’s organizational growth and commercial deployment of its ICE-31 liquid amine carbon capture technology.

“We continue to make progress on our goal to deliver the full value chain of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) as a business, and we believe ION is a part of this solution. ION has consistent proof points in technology performance, recognition from the Department of Energy, partnerships with global brands, and a strong book of business that it brings to the relationship,” Chris Powers, vice president of CCUS and emerging with CNE, says in the release. “ION’s solvent technology, combined with Chevron’s assets and capabilities, has the potential to reach numerous emitters and support our ambitions of a lower carbon future. We believe collaborations like this are essential to our efforts to grow carbon capture on a global scale.”

With the new investment, the company announced that Timothy Vail will join the company as CEO. He previously was CEO of Arbor Renewable Gas and founder and CEO of G2X Energy Inc. He also serves as an Operating Partner for OGCI Climate Investments.

"With these investments, we are well positioned to grow ION into a worldwide provider of high-performance point source capture solutions,” Vail says. “This capital allows us to accelerate the commercial deployment of our carbon capture technology.”

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