Pangaea Blog

Pangaea invests in early stage cleantech companies with world-class advanced materials innovation.

Recent blog posts

Portfolio Spotlight: Switch Materials

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Recycling is a transformation process converting waste materials into useful products. Many of us are involved in recycling firsthand; in my case, every two weeks, the waste disposal company truck shows up in my neighborhood to collect a mix of paper, glass, plastic, steel and aluminum containers for recycling. I should note, however, that this is only the first step in the overall recycling process flow. In the 3R’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” environmental practice, recycling is now playing a key role in addressing the supply of critical materials. At stake is the availability of adequate material resources as the global population marches upwards to 9.6 billion by 2050. Other driving forces include reduction in environmental pollution and meeting evolving regulatory standards in the push for a more sustainable future. Imagine getting access to metals without resorting to strip mining, open-pit mining and the associated land destruction and environmental damage! How about recapturing scarce materials from the billions of discarded electronic devices? Designing manufacturing processes to convert pollutants into useful products! Protecting trees, the lungs of the planet, by increasing paper recycling. Converting greenhouse gases into useful products! With sustainability a key part of our focus, Pangaea Ventures monitors innovation, new approaches and emerging companies in materials recycling.

While the periodic table may depict rare earth metals in one of the two additional rows thrown in at the very bottom, almost as an ad-hoc afterthought, these elements shouldn't be overlooked. They play significant roles in many large disparate industries and geopolitics alike.

Magnets are perhaps the best-known application for rare earth elements (REEs). Permanent magnets made from alloys of REEs with transition metals and boron enable commercial production of the strongest permanent magnets known today. Stronger magnets allow for smaller, lighter replacements of traditional ferrite-based and alnico magnets. From computer hard drives to neomagnet building set toys to open MRI scanners, rare earth magnets are finding their way in to products all around us both large and small.

A penny saved is a penny earned. An old idiom still frequently uttered today. And its core value extends well beyond basic finance to energy. While "a watt saved is a watt earned" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, the implications are much the same.

Portfolio Spotlight: Vestaron

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Pangaea presents a Portfolio Spotlight on sustainable agricultural pesticide company Vestaron Corporation, featuring an interview with CEO Dr. John Sorenson.

June 24th’s indictment of neonicotinoids by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is by far the most conclusive evidence to date of the widespread destructive effects of this class of pesticide ever published. Based on a four-year analysis, bringing together over 800 peer-reviewed papers, the IUCN has recommended a global phase-out the use of all neonicotinoid and fipronil pesticides ("neonics" for short).

In my opening remarks at the Advanced Materials Commercialization Summit on May 13, 2014, I discussed several “giga goals” facing advanced materials in the energy, electronics, health and sustainability markets.

In energy, batteries are widely seen as the Achilles heel of the electric vehicle. A Tesla replacement battery is $30,000 or about a third of the value of the car. On top of that, the range of an electric car is only about half that of a combustion car. The US DOE has a cost target of $5,000 per battery ($125/kWhr) by 2020 and an energy density target of 250 Wh/kg. The question put forth to the battery producers is how will we achieve these lofty goals? Well, significant work needs to happen. Perhaps this is why Telsa is proposing the largest battery factory in the world. When completed, it will produce batteries for 500,000 Tesla cars representing 35 GWh of energy per year. This one factory will produce more batteries than the current world production capacity. The Tesla Giga factory will reduce cost through scale but won’t alone solve all of the battery issues. There will need to be improvements in energy density by identifying and optimizing new materials. Pangaea has seen a number of companies work on promising technology such as layered chemistry for the cathode and silicon for the anode.

Space: The Final Frontier [for materials innovation]? It's a far-out idea but the notion of manufacturing materials in a microgravity environment is quite intriguing. Without all that pesky force we call gravity holding us back, we can explore lots of unusual phenomena perhaps impossible to replicate on the surface of our blue gravity-producing planet.

A little over a year ago I wrote a blog post about the advantages of including women in your team. If you're interested in reading about how your team WILL BE smarter, I encourage you to check it out here: Women: A Start-up’s Secret Weapon.

An opinion piece I read in a national newspaper this morning has prompted me to pen a quick follow up. Not to discuss how we can make our teams smarter, but how we can encourage more women to engage with technology and take a real leadership role in engaging with 'change the world' opportunities. Tenaciousness, take-charge attitudes, and leadership skills (also sometimes known as bossiness) are all qualities men and women alike must develop if they desire to be successful entrepreneurs (I'll expand on this shortly).

“The manufacturing sector comprises establishments engaged in the mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation of materials, substances, or components into new products”.1 From the early days of simplistic tooling to the mechanization approach for textile mills in Britain followed by Henry Ford’s assembly line, manufacturing practices continue to evolve, impacting every aspect of our lives. Advanced manufacturing systems are not only needed to support job creation but also to meet the needs of a growing population. By 2040, it is estimated that there will be around 9 billion people requiring the basic necessities of life! Pangaea Ventures’ focus on advanced materials provides a unique view on emerging manufacturing technologies. We like to see advantaged features, such as, sustainability, low cost, robustness, energy efficiency and scalability.