Bill Gates is backing a new venture which aims to turn sunlight into a source of heat exceeding 1,000C that could help replace fossil fuels.

The world’s richest man is joining investors behind Heliogen, the first company to concentrate sunlight to reach temperatures that are high enough to power heavy industry without carbon emissions.

The technology could even reach temperatures of 1,500C to split hydrogen molecules from water to create a fossil-free gas to warm homes, fuel cars and power factories.

Bill Gross, the chief executive and founder of California-based Heliogen, said the company represents a technological leap forward in tackling the emissions from industry and transport that make up 75% of the world’s carbon footprint.

The company uses software to align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a target, creating a source of heat almost three times as intense as previous commercial solar systems.

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