Ramesh, the former Energy Department Sunshot chief, met with Ace in May 2012, weeks before leaving his post to return to a faculty job at the University of California, Berkeley.
In a phone interview, Ramesh called the inventor a very smart guy who appears to have a solid knowledge of physics, thermal energy and optics. He said that Ace touted his solar trap and described what would be a fundamental discovery, but he did not confide details.
I need to see data, and he needs money to show the data, Ramesh said, describing the chicken-and-egg dilemmas that often confront inventors. You have to prove out everything before somebody puts in money.
Since 2010, the Energy Department has approved nearly $13 billion in grants and loans for cutting-edge research on solar power. But Ace and his company, Pinnacle Products LLC, have yet to apply for or receive a nickel of it. For one reason, he said, he didnt feel comfortable revealing his technology in a grant application before he obtained protection by applying for a patent.
Ace also said that an Energy Department grant wouldnt help bankroll his first priority, which is to raise $1.8 million to seek and maintain patents in 60 countries to protect U.S. economic interests in his technology. Federal rules bar using grant money to pay for foreign patent applications.
Searching for investors who have passion, pesos and patriotism, Ace has recently picked up modest new investments from several engineers and scientists, he said.
For Ace, a tenacious man who has worked marathon hours, its often been a lonely quest.
He said that he has been motivated by a desire to avoid an energy disaster and to help reduce the national debt. He envisions licensing his technology to the Defense Department so that military bases could use the traps to generate cheap power and even profit by selling low-cost excess energy to neighboring communities or host countries.
Darnell, for one, gushes with pride to have been able to act as a sounding board.
He said that Ace has laid out a roadmap for how the world could, in fact, over a period of time, convert to a truly sustainable, truly clean, truly benign technology that essentially could bring prosperity everywhere in the world the sun shines.