by Corey Simpson

Most people think about energy consumption in terms of concrete usage – we use it to power things, run our cars and heat our homes. But what about the energy required for storage and distribution of…energy?

Through $20 Million & Change, Patagonia has invested in an innovative new material science company called NuMat Technologies, founded by a diverse team of chemists, engineers and energy experts with the goal of solving tough energy efficiency problems.

To use gas more efficiently, you need to reduce the size of the container (and thus weight, compression, transportation and material costs). Gas molecules are attracted to surfaces, so inside a cylinder they cling to the walls, leaving the spacious interior vacant.

The solution from NuMat is a structure called MOF (metal organic framework) that, installed inside a cylinder, provides a kind of jungle gym for gas molecules to cling to – radically increasing storage efficiency.

In practical terms, this means:

  • Smaller oxygen tanks for oxygen-reliant patients (taking 40,000 oxygen delivery trucks off the road)
  • 50 percent energy savings for every 30 million tons of oxygen produced
  • Compressed natural gas vehicles with a traditional-sized gas tank, rather than tanks the size of an entire trunk
  • Dramatic reductions in power required for separating life-sustaining gases, such as oxygen

In fact, one of NuMat’s materials boasts more than 7,000 square meters of surface area per gram of material – the equivalent of 1.5 football fields when unfolded. That’s a world record!

Energy processing, distribution and storage drive 10 percent of global energy consumption. Patagonia’s investment in NuMat represents a strong step forward in the effort to reduce that number substantially in the future by transforming transportation, health care and utility-scale energy processing and storage.

For more information about NuMat, visit their website here.

Patagonia has received interest from more than 600 companies who share similar business and environmental missions, and invested in 10 companies to date, including Bureo Skateboards, Kina’Ole Solar, CO2 Nexus, Yerdle and California Safe Soil, among others.