Analyst Bites - 1: Advanced Material Science startups silently solving industry & global problems

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The Startup landscape in the hardware area is often only coming to limelight once it reaches early adopters or in later stages when it becomes mainstream. The area of deep technologies such as electronics & semiconductors, materials and chemicals, optics and other areas will become mainstream after years of basic research followed by lab testing and further steps.

One the one hand this offers a huge competitive advantage to these startups since the technologies are often difficult to duplicate as they are backed by patents and know-how. On the other hand, the time it takes scaling up their solution and bringing it to the market requires huge resilience for deep tech entrepreneurs.

The purpose of this Analyst Bites is to highlight advanced materials science and technology startups worth knowing. Before we start, I’ll fit them into a landscape for better visualization. According to WMRIF’s (World Materials Research Institutes Forum) economic impact VS socio/environmental impact 4X4 matrix, there are ten areas that the technology world must work towards to achieve a sustainable solution with economic and socio benefits.

Here is one such matrix,

4x4 Matrix from WMRIF

Legend:

  • Renewable energy and energy storage (RE)
  • Lower weight transportation (LT)
  • Sustainable buildings and infrastructure (SB)
  • Medical technologies and biological functionalization (MT)
  • Managing climate change and natural catastrophes (CC)
  • Rapid design and manufacturing (RD)
  • Recovery and use of scarce resources (SR)
  • Potable water retrieval, supply, and purification (PW)
  • Lifetime prediction and long-term service of systems (LP)
  • Modeling and data (MD)

Each of these 10 areas is further bifurcated to address subproblem statement that material science startups can solve. Here are the startups that are silently solving these major challenges:

  1. Category: RE: New Battery Materials for electric batteries used in car

Challenge in the industry: The use of lithium-ion batteries with cobalt presence causes problems in illegal mining, precious metal mining, high cost, and other factors. Due to such reasons, Tesla and Panasonic’s battery partnership ensures cobalt free electric batteries in the future.

Solution from the startup: Conamix solves the advancement of cobalt-free electric batteries to future of automotive industry the electric cars. The startup recently received an undisclosed amount of funding in series B.

2. Category: LT: Lightweight carbon fiber composite for auto components

Challenge in the industry: Carbon fiber composites offer huge material benefits in terms of toughness, weight reduction, and other parameters. However, the cost side of the equation still means that this technology is not widespread.

Solution from the startup: Blackwave through its advanced automation process and CFRP technology, this TUM (Technical University of Munich, Germany) spin-out ensures an economical production of lightweight carbon fiber auto components.

3. Category: SB: Thermochromic filter technology that controls heat transfer between home and outside

Challenges in the industry: New alternative green HVAC control solutions have been looked for by architects and designers in the green building sector

Solution from startup: Ravenwindow uses transitioning technology that separates windows from an external atmosphere. This leads to a reduction of HVAC cost by 30% and its customer lifetime value is higher (30 years)due to its design for life.

4. Category: RD: 30x Thermal conductivity improvements in high powered lasers

Challenges in the industry: Due to residual absorption of reflective optics used in high beam laser applications, there is a structural damage that happens both to the coating and the laser system.

Solution from startup: Crystalline mirror solutions —( a University of Vienna, Austrian spin-out) came up with substrate-transferred crystalline coatings that increase the thermal conductivity by 30x. The potential applications include IR spectroscopy, Advanced High powered laser light applications such as automotive lighting and others.

5. Category: CC: Carbon management catalyst for Carbon Capture systems (CCS)

Challenges in the industry: Entrepreneurs and philanthropists such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and others formed a venture program to solve world climate change problems including carbon capture. However, the problem for CCS lies in its scalability due to its energy intensive and chemical processes.

Solution from startup: CO2 Solutions — came up with an innovative carbon management catalyst called carbonic anhydrase, which is a common natural enzyme found in all living organism used for carbon capture and process in industry’s existing solvent-based gas scrubbing technologies.

6. Category: SR: Printed electrochromic display for embedded IoT devices in paper and thin films

Challenges in the industry: The use of IoT devices are nowadays become prevalent, particularly in consumer industries such as FMCG packaging. However, the problem lies in the cost of the solution, multifunctional sensor capabilities, and others to embed such IoT devices offers to challenge packers.

Solution from startup: Yinvisible — This Toronto stock exchange (TSX) listed startup came up with a microscopically thin, flexible and robust electrochromic ink technology that can be printed almost on anything including paper, plastic and other thin films.

Bonus startups and areas:

7. Problem faced by the industry: The evolution of Autonomous vehicle(AV) to mainstream market is possible when there is a considerable cost reduction in multiple technologies such as sensors. As Elon Musk famously said once, the scalability of AV is possible without LiDAR. Hence there are blindspot areas that has to be overcome.

Solution from startup: PMD tec (This University of Siegen, Germany) uses sophisticated 3D time of flight measurement technology in combo with CMOS fabrication. That enables the technology to be used in autonomous vehicle application in the areas of 3D mapping, depth measurement, and gesture recognition system.

8. Problem faced by the industry: Scalability of quantum computing(QC) to the cryogenic free environment and solve computation problems that are unless otherwise solved by classical digital computers are still a challenge in QC.

Solutions from startup: Branecell’s unitary environment system bases Quantum computing processor unit that enables the reduction of Q bit errors and scalability of quantum computing at room temperature. The technology is aimed at multiple applications including large-scale research simulations in the area of bioscience, materials and chemistry, the blockchain, cognitive control of cities and so on.

Startup fit in the matrix

Do you have any other example startups in the missing areas from the above matrix? Mention this in the comment with URL.

Contact StartUs Insights, to dig deeper into the area of advanced materials and related solutions.