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Korea embarks on W160b project to develop disruptive technologies

The South Korean government has embarked on a 160 billion won ($136 million) project to develop disruptive technologies, including technologies to produce electric vehicles capable of traveling more than 600 kilometers after just one minute of charging, officials said Sunday.

The seven-year project, called “Alchemist,” is a follow-up to the “manufacturing renaissance” vision and strategy announced by the Industry Ministry in June. It will cover six categories of products, including the new EVs. The others are robot suits, transparent solar cells, high-efficiency solar cells, air-purifying cars and high-efficiency heat pumps. 

These transparent solar panels could serve as windows and be used to power buildings. (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy)
These transparent solar panels could serve as windows and be used to power buildings. (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy)

At the center of the project are plans to develop long-range EVs that can run more than 600 kilometers on a single charge, after only a minute of charging time. Currently, it takes at least 30 minutes to charge an EV. The ministry believes the battery-driven cars would transform the auto industry and could also have an impact on other transportation industries, including the electric aircraft industry.

The robot suits that the ministry envisions will feature exoskeletons that enable the wearer to run 100 meters in seven seconds. The outfits will be designed to react quickly to human movements and increase their locomotion speed accordingly, officials said.

The targets for the new transparent solar cells are a visible light penetration rate of more than 70 percent and energy generation efficiency of over 12 percent. This means they could serve as windows and be used to power buildings, the ministry said.

The project also seeks to increase the power generation efficiency of silicon solar cells to more than 35 percent, from the current 30 percent. If this effort succeeds, it may help Korean firms outperform their Chinese rivals, which lead the market with cost competitiveness.

The air-purifying cars would be equipped with air purifiers in front and would filter fine dust out of the air while being driven.

The goal for the high-efficiency heat pumps is to reduce power consumption by more than 50 percent over current air-conditioning and heating systems.

The six tasks were selected after three months of public hearings and expert deliberations. The experts considered the industrial impact of the technologies to be developed, the technological innovation and social interests, the government said.

The Industry Ministry is slated to select partners for the project from Monday until Aug. 6. The selected organizations will be given two years to carry out pilot studies, and another five years to present the most innovative and reliable outcomes. 

By Shin Ji-hye (