WASHINGTON - Ron Ace says he recognized the many impediments to capturing and storing solar energy while working as a researcher in a University of Maryland molecular physics laboratory some 40 years ago and dismissed the possibility that the sun ever could be a major source of power.
Turning away from solar, he thought he'd never look back.
During his 10 years at Maryland, he built prototypes of 350 of his inventions, and they all worked, he said.
"If the science, the physics and engineering are all there, then it will always work," Ace likes to say.
In the 1980s, Ace obtained several patents for eyeglass innovations - for scratch-resistant coatings, photo-chromic plastic lenses that turned dark in the sunlight, and laminated "photo glastic" lenses that blended the best qualities of glass and plastic.
A wiry man with thinning, graying hair and a voracious curiosity, Ace grew disturbed over the past decade by worldwide fears about climate change and energy shortages. Undaunted at the immensity of the challenge, he set out to try to solve some of the greatest threats to mankind.
In 2008, he emerged from obscurity when McClatchy reported on his patent application for a solution to global warming - an attempt to compensate for the Earth's dehumidifying loss of billions of trees, particularly the large-leafed ones.
He proposed to spray huge volumes of sea water into the air at key, windy spots around the planet. When the droplets evaporated, he argued, the newly formed water vapor would absorb enormous amounts of thermal energy and carry it into the atmosphere, where it would produce sun-blocking clouds, condense into cooling rain or radiate heat into space.