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Sustainability: Life Members named Breakthrough Energy Innovator Fellows

31 January 2023

Kevin Kung and Ian Hu, Life Members of Clare Hall and founders of Takachar and Phycobloom respectively, have been selected as Innovator Fellows by Breakthrough Energy – an organisation encompassing Bill Gates’ climate and energy work.

Kevin Kung combines his background in combustion engineering and physics with his professional expertise in engineering design to make bioproduct processing and consumption more affordable and efficient. At Takachar, he and his team have developed the first portable device for converting natural waste into bioproducts in even the most hard-to-access and underserved rural agricultural communities. Unlike traditional biomass process technologies that are large-scale, centralised, and capital-intensive, Takachar’s low-cost, portable solution can attach to tractors and pick-up trucks to process crop and forest debris into biofuels, fertilisers, and other valuable products onsite. With the support of the Innovator Fellows programme, Takachar will work to de-risk the technology and deploy field-scale prototypes with diverse communities to demonstrate usability and impact in the target markets.

Originally from Taiwan, Kevin earned a Bachelor of Arts in Physics from Princeton University and a MPhil in Physics at the University of Cambridge. He completed an MSc in Biological Engineering and a PhD in Biofuels and Renewable Energy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to his studies, he spent six years conducting engineering design in resource-constrained settings, including borehole restoration in Uganda, interlocking stabilised construction materials in Ghana, and renewable energy systems in Kenya and India. Takachar, led by Kevin and Vidyut Mohan, was awarded the Earthshot Prize and £1 million in recognition of its innovative effort to tackle northern India’s smog crisis in 2021.

Ian Hu and his team at Phycobloom are working on engineering algae that can continuously produce biofuels and capture carbon. Ian has a background in Biology and is ‘driven to develop technologies that can help mankind overcome the climate crisis’. Phycobloom has genetically engineered algae that continuously captures carbon dioxide while secreting an oil that can be used in sustainable biofuels. This process eliminates the traditional carbon-intensive harvesting process that can damage algae and will reduce costs by up to 70%. During the Fellows programme, the company hopes to demonstrate their algae performance at scale.

Ian completed his Bachelor of Science in Plant Pathology and Microbiology at the National Taiwan University. He holds a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge. On his time at Clare Hall, Ian comments, ‘I really appreciated my time working behind the ALB bar, where a lot of thought-provoking discussions happened.’

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