At X, we spend most of our time breaking things and working to discover that we’re wrong. We run hard and fast at the biggest problems so we can learn and adapt quickly. Explorations are our early-stage attempts to investigate new moonshots. Many ideas will be shelved during this process, but those that survive will move on to become larger X projects and make contact with the real world.
Malta2015 - ongoing
Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar already contribute clean power to the electricity grid. But these energy sources are intermittent – the sun shines only part of the day, and wind is unpredictable – and so they can’t always be relied upon to produce electricity when it is needed. To ensure that there’s an adequate supply of renewable energy on hand to meet peaks in demand, we need a clean, cost-effective way to store renewable energy when it’s generated. So the Malta team is developing a thermal storage system that uses salt to store renewable energy at scale.
Foghorn2013 - 2016
Over 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by cars, trucks and planes that use gasoline to get around. In 2013 we developed a radical solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: a synthetic carbon-neutral fuel, made from seawater. A breakthrough technology enabled us to produce this new, carbon-neutral fuel, but the cost of creating it made it unfeasible to scale. So in January 2016, we decided to end this exploration.
Air freight costs are high (largely due to fuel), but ships are too slow for transporting many goods, leaving many countries out of full participation in the global economy. Early in 2014, we explored a lighter-than-air ship that could help reduce freight costs significantly in countries without good transportation infrastructure. Even though we proved the technical feasibility of the project, the extremely high initial cost of prototyping and lack of high impact applications led us to stop the investigation.