22-year-old scientist is fighting climate change one invention at a time

Ethan Novek is a 22-year-old chemist and inventor. He’s the founder of Innovator Energy, its mission is to improve the quality of life while decreasing resource consumption and pollution. 

Novek spoke with In The Know about how his parents raised him to have a science-minded curiosity and how researchers who take the biggest risks can have the largest impact.

Novek earned the first of his 16 granted utility patents when he was a teenager. 

“A granted patent means an invention has gone through a rigorous examination process,” Novek told In The Know. It also means the patent examiner has verified the invention is different than everything that’s existed before it.” 

He credited his mom and dad for raising him to seek answers out himself whenever he had a question.

“I think my parents created an atmosphere at home, even though they aren’t scientists, that is more similar to something that a scientist would do,” Novek told In The Know. “You have to always be questioning things, you have to take that knowledge and come up with better hypotheses or new predictions or conclusions.”

Novek’s first patent, at age 16, is a tidal power system that produces energy from tidal waves. When he was digging holes at the beach, he noticed the water level in the hole was rising with the water level of the ocean. 

“I realized that if you could generate energy from the water rising in the hole instead of from the water rising in the ocean, you could generate electricity from tidal power without harming marine life and also without dealing with the ocean currents and waves,” Novek told In The Know. 

The scientist now has his eyes set on reducing greenhouse gases. Refrigerants, for example, make up 1.2 billion tons of global emissions annually and that amount is projected to triple over the next 30 years. 

“My work focuses on transforming the way we produce and use energy,” Novek told In The Know. “I’ve developed technologies that store energy much less expensively and more efficiently, heating and cooling without refrigerants,” Novek told In The Know. “And CO2 separation where we are able to capture carbon dioxide without burning fossil fuels.” 

Novek believes that it’s his willingness to take risks that have resulted in his prolific innovations. 

“Oftentimes in academia, the focus is on doing things that are immediately useful for other people’s research,” Novek told In The Know. “So things that will get cited, but not on doing things that are risky and time-consuming and things that are risky and time-consuming are usually things that are more impactful and important to the world.” 

If you enjoyed this article, In The Know also covered why climate change fear can feel like grief.

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