The idea is only the first step

Four startups from Germany: whether it's a matter of energy generation or waste-collecting robots, the most important aim is practical implementation and market maturity.

Solar energy can solve all problems.
Solar energy can solve all problems. picture alliance / dpa

The German economy is one of the strongest and most innovative in the world. Here, we introduce you to four startups that underline this claim with some unusual ideas. Three of them deal with energy and one cleans up our environment.

Heliatek – all surfaces become power plants

Thin, soon even transparent sheets of plastic foil coated with organic materials produce solar energy in a way that up to now only heavy and bulky panels have done. This is not just the vision of the Dresden-based company Heliatek: it's already a reality. They've developed this OPV technology, which is protected by 315 patents, and are now marketing it: 70 percent of the production for 2022 has already been sold. Heliatek's visions are growing in proportion to their real successes; according to the company's website: "We will enable every building to be energy neutral in 2030."

Marvel Fusion – a clean reactor

A nuclear reactor without chain reactions, radiation or radioactive waste? Marvel Fusion from Munich promise exactly that: lasers designed to heat hydrogen and boron so that they fuse into helium. A lot of energy is released during this fusion. But nothing else, no radiation worth mentioning, about the same amount as in a radiography practice, no radioactive waste; nor is there a potentially uncontrollable chain reaction. Fusion stops when the laser is switched off. Top researchers from all over the world are working on this project. Currently, Marvel Fusion are looking at possible sites for an experimental power plant costing around two billion euros.

Phelas – air as an energy store

Generating energy sustainably is one problem, storing it is another. The barely-two-year-old Munich-based startup Phelas relies on air for storage. Liquefied air releases the energy used for compression when it becomes gaseous. The storage units, which are the size of standard containers, can be installed anywhere – both where energy is generated and where it is needed. A further advantage: if there is an accident all that escapes is ... air. Phelas have big-name backers, such as the European space agency ESA, and aim to offer their products on the market in 2025.

Angsa – a robot cleans up

Bottle caps and cigarette butts – small things become a big issue when they litter meadows and parks. A robot from the startup Angsa Robotics is soon to take over this laborious cleaning job. The robot uses a camera and artificial intelligence to recognize what it is supposed to vacuum up. Munich students Karl Schulz, Bilal Tariq and Lukas Wiesmeier aim to put their self-driving garbage collector on the market in 2022. Angsa, by the way, means swan in Indonesian; Tariq came from Indonesia to study at the TU Munich.

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