The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said of him that he was one of the world’s leaders under 35 years of age. The engineer Gonzalo Murillo (Granada, 1983) is a researcher at the microelectronics center of the Higher Center for Scientific Research (CSIC) in Barcelona.

In addition, he is the founder of the company Energiot, a startup so futuristic that it seems straight out of the series Black Mirror –although he confesses not having seen it – dedicated to “harvest energy for the Internet of Things “(IoT).

Enthusiastic and friendly, after his PhD and a decade of experience as a researcher and manager, he has lived in many countries. And why not anticipate it, in a few years he can become one of the key men in our country.



Gonzalo Murillo and renewables: “In energy, we have to anticipate what could come”

Quique Falcon

Your company “harvests” energy. Where is the one you pick up, floating?

[sonríe] Floating it’s a marketing communication, but basically we are talking about mechanical energy, the movement of the human body, environmental vibrations, the movement of a vehicle, an installation, a building … But also the residual magnetic field of a high voltage magnetic line , for instance.

And the idea is to take advantage of that little energy for something that costs little.

Effectively, [vuelve a sonreír] this is what is called the nanoenergy revolution. We are not talking about a lot of energy: that would be renewable sources, which we also know. Here we are dealing with small sources of energy that surround us, such as magnetic fields or movements of an installation or machinery.

So much energy is produced and floats?

Microwatts – or even milliwatts – enough to power electronic devices. In recent years there is a convergence between what these devices need, which are lately ultra-low power, and the energy that has been generated more and more, which is enough to power them.

And what devices are those?

At Energiot, we have IoT devices (Internet of Things or Internet of Things) -small computers, radios and light, magnetic field, temperature and humidity sensors-, and all this is fed with this little energy that we extract.

Science needs philosophy, I am interested in stoicism and analyzing how the world affects us

What good is this multitude of sensors?

What we achieve with this is to make the deployment of this IoT transparent. Energy autonomy is a great barrier for him, if we cannot have devices deployed around us that can be self-powered.

Then, with the intelligence of big data, we can optimize these processes and be more efficient in resources.

You have won many awards with this proposal.

The first of all was that of innovator in Europe in 2016. Later, several, yes. And now we are in the final phase of EntrepreneursXXI of La Caixa.

Was your thesis on this same topic?

Yes, on devices for the recovery of environmental energy from sources of vibrations.

So, is it possible to dedicate yourself to research in Spain?

It is a controversial issue. In Spain there is little investment in R&D, and it has now been seen with the issue of covid that a greater investment is necessary. Breakthroughs actually happen because someone is creating and researching new knowledge.

I believe that investment should be mixed, but the public part cannot sit idly by, it has to increase its investment as in other countries.

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What is the difference between innovation and creativity?

They are different, but they go hand in hand. For me, creativity is generating new knowledge at a table, with an engineer, a biologist and a physicist. The innovation is that some of these ideas reach the market and we can create an associated value. Both are required and apply to different TLRs.

With the intelligence of ‘big data’, we manage to optimize IoT processes to make it more efficient

¿TLR?

It is the level of maturity of a technology to bring it to market. Creativity has a lower TRL, something that may never be implemented. The highest levels are those that are already in the laboratory, real and tested in specific environments.

A very crazy idea, so is it an idea with a very low TLR?

Yes [risas]. For example, the concept of electro-pharmaceuticals or using electrical impulses instead of chemicals as a treatment for diseases. These small impulses allow the cells to be stimulated and to treat many diseases. Currently it is already used to treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or some chronic diseases. But in 10 or 15 years we will see the first electronic devices that will allow the treatment of diseases.

What is science not good for?

They said in a round table recently that a scientist cannot be a good leader of a company. Well look, you may need to specialize, but there are people who have many abilities and can be. Why not.

Science needs philosophy, now I’m reading about Stoicism [Cómo ser un estoico, de Massimo Pigliucci (Planeta, 2018)]. I quite like to analyze how the world affects us.

Goal number 7 says that energy has to be affordable, safe, sustainable and modern. Of those four adjectives, which one is more difficult to reach?

Affordable means that the entire planet could have electricity; It is a shame, but in many countries it is not real. Currently they are very safe, there is a very important security of supply.

Sustainable is a challenge we have: in 2050 the world of renewable energies has to be much bigger. Modern comes hand in hand with everything else. Networks need to be modernized, of course.

In Spain there is little investment in R&D, but progress really happens because someone is creating and researching new knowledge

That modernization, what does it consist of?

For example, we want to include this Internet of Things in electrical networks and many more sensors than are currently used. Right now, there are a million overhead power lines throughout Spain.

Keep in mind that these lines are high voltage: to be able to do their maintenance it must be done with a helicopter, with a very exhaustive control, for the safety of the operator and on a regular basis. There are no sensors arranged along the line that allow us to know its status. Installing this type of device and having a real-time control of the status and knowing how we have to distribute the energy would soon be possible.

Do we need more knowledge of energy?

Especially at a dynamic level. The ideal would be to be able to measure these parameters in real time and locally. Before, when I went from my house to my grandmother’s, I basically used the road that I knew, sometimes there was traffic and it took half an hour more.

Now, with Google Maps you know which is the optimal way to reach a destination. It is exactly the same with energy: we have to know the state of all the lines to know how to distribute electrical energy. We believe that it is very important to measure.

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The utilities, the government or the consumer, whose responsibility is it and why do they mention each other?

Companies should think about the consumer, try to make distribution and transmission more efficient and modernize their networks. Also the price, which may decrease in the future.

The government cannot stand idly by and must take part in this matter, as it is a common good. The consumer must think twice about how we do this consumption in general of all the natural resources that we have, and carry out an efficient and responsible consumption of energy.

When we imagine dystopian futures, it seems that our maximum fear is a blackout like our maximum fear.

Currently we have a very high level of security of supply, but it is true that it is something that has to be maintained. We live in this VUCA environment, everything speeds up a lot.

With the issue of covid we have experienced something that was unthinkable in the past: we have been confined. Why couldn’t something similar happen with the issue of energy and electricity? We have to anticipate much of what could come. Always anticipate.

Someone who inspires you?

As a reference there is a person who seems extraordinary to me in research and energy issues: Yong Li, a Chinese professor of mine. I stayed with him for six months during my PhD and he is one of the most important authors in nanotechnology in the world.

As a person he is super open, he is always helping you and I think that in the future maybe he will get the Nobel because he is generating a lot of new knowledge. He lives in Atlanta, he is a pioneer in the world. It has a center in China too, I was there for two weeks a year and a half ago. He is a person who sits down with you to chat about any scientific topic and has a very extensive knowledge

Internationally, is China the country that knows the most about energy?

Yes, in terms of research, the most emerging country is China. Cup all rankings generation of publications, patents, etc. And this will continue like this for the next few years. They have had a very good general commercial strategy as a country and it is not for less in research. On the energy issue, especially the African countries are suffering more and have much fewer resources.

Gonzalo Murillo is the founder of the Energiot company.

Quique Falcon

In the cover image of this interview, Gonzalo Murillo holds the poster with SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy). His biography in four words defines them with the names of his four brothers.

“Blanca reminds me of my childhood. Álvaro was one of my best friends during adolescence, we shared a room. Adela is the little one. Finally, my fourth brother, who lives in Barcelona and with whom I have reconnected now that he is close, ”he says.

And he is sincere: “When I was 21, our mother died. I was in Germany and I came back to be with them.”

Reference-www.elespanol.com

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