Roasting Coffee with the Rays of the Sun

Antonio Durbe, left, and Daniele Tummei overlook the functioning of the Purosole, Pure Sun, solar light coffee roaster, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (AP)
Antonio Durbe, left, and Daniele Tummei overlook the functioning of the Purosole, Pure Sun, solar light coffee roaster, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (AP)
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Roasting Coffee with the Rays of the Sun

Antonio Durbe, left, and Daniele Tummei overlook the functioning of the Purosole, Pure Sun, solar light coffee roaster, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (AP)
Antonio Durbe, left, and Daniele Tummei overlook the functioning of the Purosole, Pure Sun, solar light coffee roaster, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (AP)

Combining two of Italy's delights — coffee and sunshine — a couple of engineers in Rome have created an environmentally friendly way to roast coffee beans without electricity or gas.

Antonio Durbe and Daniele Tummei have spent almost six years building and perfecting their sunlight coffee roaster.

The result is a system that needs a piece of land about the size of half a tennis court and sunny weather to roast up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of coffee an hour.

The plant is run entirely by energy from the sun. Sunrays are concentrated by a set of mirrors on a coffee roaster and even the few electrical parts are powered by a small solar panel. Sensors controlled by a computer allow the mirrors to follow the sun throughout the day and focus its light on a rotating steel basket that contains the fresh coffee beans. The basket reaches peak temperatures of about 240-250 C (450-480 F), depending on the sun's brightness, and can roast the beans in 20 minutes.

The process isn't only environmentally friendly and economically convenient. According to Durbe and Tummei, it also better preserves the coffee’s aroma, giving it a richer flavor. Unlike conventional hot air ovens, which are typically gas-powered, the concentrated sunlight roasts the coffee without heating the air around it — by penetrating the grains in a more uniform way and without burning the exterior.

Naturally, the system does depend on good weather. On cloudy days or after sunset, coffee lovers need to turn elsewhere.

However, in sunny southern Italy, a plant with 40 mirrors is capable of roasting up to 30,000 kilograms (66,000 pounds) of coffee a year, saving about 60,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to the inventors.

Their Purosole, or pure sun, coffee can be bought online, but the main goal of the inventors is selling their solar coffee roasting plants to small businesses who are sensitive to the environment. Right now, they are operating their plant in the garden of a friend.

The system can be put to other uses as well. At the end of a long work day, Durbe and Tummei place a grill in in front of the mirrors to prepare some delicious sunlight barbecue.



Microsoft Faces UK Competition Investigation Over Hiring of AI Startup’s Founder, Key Staff

FILE - Mustafa Suleyman co founder and CEO of Inflection AI speaks to journalist during the AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England, on Nov. 1, 2023. The Competition and Markets Authority said Tuesday, July 16, 2024 that its review of the hirings from Inflection AI turned up “sufficient information” to open an investigation. Microsoft hired Inflection’s co-founder and CEO Mustafa Suleyman to head up its consumer artificial intelligence business, along with several top engineers and researchers. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
FILE - Mustafa Suleyman co founder and CEO of Inflection AI speaks to journalist during the AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England, on Nov. 1, 2023. The Competition and Markets Authority said Tuesday, July 16, 2024 that its review of the hirings from Inflection AI turned up “sufficient information” to open an investigation. Microsoft hired Inflection’s co-founder and CEO Mustafa Suleyman to head up its consumer artificial intelligence business, along with several top engineers and researchers. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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Microsoft Faces UK Competition Investigation Over Hiring of AI Startup’s Founder, Key Staff

FILE - Mustafa Suleyman co founder and CEO of Inflection AI speaks to journalist during the AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England, on Nov. 1, 2023. The Competition and Markets Authority said Tuesday, July 16, 2024 that its review of the hirings from Inflection AI turned up “sufficient information” to open an investigation. Microsoft hired Inflection’s co-founder and CEO Mustafa Suleyman to head up its consumer artificial intelligence business, along with several top engineers and researchers. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
FILE - Mustafa Suleyman co founder and CEO of Inflection AI speaks to journalist during the AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England, on Nov. 1, 2023. The Competition and Markets Authority said Tuesday, July 16, 2024 that its review of the hirings from Inflection AI turned up “sufficient information” to open an investigation. Microsoft hired Inflection’s co-founder and CEO Mustafa Suleyman to head up its consumer artificial intelligence business, along with several top engineers and researchers. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

British regulators opened a preliminary investigation on Tuesday into Microsoft's hiring of an AI startup's key staff over concerns that it could thwart competition in the booming artificial intelligence market.

The Competition and Markets Authority said its review of the hirings from Inflection AI, including its co-founder and CEO Mustafa Suleyman, turned up “sufficient information” to open an investigation.

Microsoft hired Suleyman to head up its consumer artificial intelligence business earlier this year, and brought over several top engineers and researchers. Suleyman co-founded the AI research lab DeepMind, which is now owned by Google, before setting up Inflection and is considered an influential figure in the AI world, The AP reported.

The watchdog has indicated that it was assessing whether the hirings amount to a merger that results in “a substantial lessening of competition” in the UK's AI market, in breach of the country's antitrust rules.

“We are confident that the hiring of talent promotes competition and should not be treated as a merger," Microsoft said in a statement. "We will provide the UK Competition and Markets Authority with the information it needs to complete its inquiries expeditiously.”

The British watchdog has until Sept. 11 to decide whether to give its approval or escalate the probe into an in-depth investigation. The authority has the power to reverse deals or impose fixes to address competition concerns.

Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have become concerned about how the biggest technology companies are gobbling up the talent and products of innovative AI startups without formally acquiring them.

Three members of the US Senate wrote last week to antitrust enforcers at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, urging them to investigate Amazon's purchase of San Francisco-based Adept. The deal will result in Adept's CEO and key employees going to Amazon and giving the e-commerce giant a license to Adept’s AI systems and datasets.