Peter Thiel

Let’s take a little ride on the Atmospheric Vortex Engine bandwagon. It might not go very far, this scheme to create an air vortex in a big tower to spin turbines to produce electricity, but $300,000 from Silicon Valley investor-billionaire Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs says it’s getting a shot.

The concept is a close cousin of the solar updraft towers (which we’ve been admittedly weirdly enthusiastic about), relying on convection to move air. But whereas those projects would use solar collectors of some sort as the heat source, the brainchild of inventor Louis Michaud wants to grab waste heat from, say, a thermal power plant and channel it into a powerful swirl of energy. Keep reading →