The starry-eyed founder story usually goes something like this: Start an earthbound company, make lots of money, launch a rocket company to go to Mars.

If that’s the stereotypical narrative, then Chris Graves has it all backward.

Graves started with the Red Planet, helping to develop a key instrument for NASA’s Perseverance rover that’s currently roaming the Jezero crater. That instrument inspired him to invent a novel battery technology that today forms the foundation of his startup, Noon Energy.

On Mars, the MOXIE instrument is intended to test the viability of making rocket-ready oxygen on Mars to enable return trips to Earth, saving mass on the outbound leg of the trip. The device sucks in carbon dioxide and strips off an oxygen atom, which it stores on board. The remaining carbon monoxide is exhausted into the thin Martian atmosphere.

Here on Earth, Noon’s carbon-oxygen battery is targeted at larger-scale applications to help bridge intermittencies that naturally occur with wind and solar. It runs a modified version of the same chemical reaction as MOXIE, though the goal is to store electricity rather than produce oxygen.

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