Recent blog posts

Renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil has made some eye-popping predictions about the future of human longevity. For example, by 2030 he predicts average lifespans will grow by one annum per annum. This progress will accelerate rapidly and not too long after, the average person can expect to live for 1,000 years. Now, if having a swarm of nanobots floating around your body repairing cells and damaged DNA seems a little far fetched, it may be comforting to learn that in the meantime, biomaterials innovators have some tricks up their sleeve to help our aging population better heal from disease, trauma, and wear-and-tear. Advanced materials have long played a role in western medicine with ubiquitous products such as cardiac stents, artificial joints, hemodialysis membranes, and artificial heart valves. But biomaterials innovation is accelerating just as pharmaceutical innovation struggles in the context of high technical risk, long timelines, and pushback on ever-increasing treatment costs. As healthcare budgets are increasingly constrained, will these biomaterial innovations turn us all into the Six Million Dollar Man (as seen on the television show about a former astronaut filled with implants, which aired four decades ago) or are they a potential savior to a healthcare system under strain? Let’s take a look at where biomaterials have a big role to play:

The Threes C's of CO2

Posted by on in Sustainability

As we enter into yet another global summit on climate change, this time in Paris over the next month, I am expecting the pattern of previous summits to continue. Backroom deals, posturing, pointing figures, smiling photo ops, speeches, and all of the other things politicians do well. But my faith in this summit actually driving any meaningful reductions five to ten years out is very low, in the context of a world with falling energy prices and national balance sheets requiring growth at all costs. I fall in the camp that believes market driven technology is needed if the climate change problem is to ever be solved. Unfortunately, CO2, a key greenhouse gas (GHG), is a highly stable molecule. Both capturing and converting it to a product of value is typically an uphill battle with highly prohibitive costs. But living plants have evolved over billions of years to become highly efficient users of this gas, so what's stopping us from figuring out how to do the same? Let's see what a few smart people around the world are working on every day:

NASA in Your Pocket

Posted by on in Electronics

For half a century, Moore's Law has charted semiconductor development with incredible accuracy. In 1965, Gordon Moore quantified the scaling principle for semiconductors by predicting that the number of transistors that can be etched on a computer chip would double every one year. He revised it to every two years in 1975. His initial belief was that this would hold for a decade. But five decades later, Moore's Law has held up surprisingly well. However, there is now a belief among many semiconductor engineers and scientists that we will hit a miniaturization wall unless there are major breakthroughs in advanced materials innovation.

Materials for the Masses, part 2

Posted by on in Advanced Materials

In part 1 of this blog, I used water and food as a starting place for how advanced materials are making our world better by improving quality of life in the developing world. I covered topics such as desalination, air conditioning, turning natural gas into food, and even eating bugs!

Materials for the Masses, part 1

Posted by on in Advanced Materials

Recently, Pangaea has been working on a number of opportunities that might not only make our world better (in terms of sustainability), but also look like they can make our lives better (in terms of quality of life). And when I say "our lives", I mean everybody's lives. In this two-part blog, I want to provide a brief overview of some of the opportunities we are following that we think can help raise the standard of living for some of the poorest people on the planet.

Biology: The New Building Blocks

Posted by on in Sustainability

I think it’s safe to say the cat is out of the bag when it comes to Synthetic biology. In case you missed it, a synbio start-up company called Zymergen, commercializing a biology-driven materials discovery platform, raised a whopping $44M in its series A mid-June 2015. While this is a big A round by any standards, it’s even more significant when looking back at the performance of venture-backed industrial biotech and biofuel companies over the last decade (reminder - it’s not a pretty picture).

Portfolio Spotlight: CarbonCure

Posted by on in Video

BNN interview with CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven.  CarbonCure retrofits concrete plants with a technology that recycles waste carbon dioxide to make affordable, greener concrete products.

In the worlds of Solid-State Physics and Materials Science, it is pretty common for exciting materials phenomenon to be predicted before they’re ever experimentally verified in the physical world. However, this typically occurs years, decades, or even centuries before commercial applications become viable and sustainable businesses can be formed. Many times, these jumps from prediction to demonstration to commercialization are never truly made.

Accelerating the 2D Unicorn

Posted by on in Advanced Materials

The hottest field in the world of advanced materials today is 3D printing. But this has been a long time coming. Hideo Kodama of Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research first developed additive manufacturing equipment and materials in1981. This original work closely resembles the stereolithography technique pioneered by Charles Hull that remains a dominant technique today. Despite the promising future at the time of this original work, it wasn’t until 27 years later, in 2008, that the additive manufacturing industry finally surpassed one billion dollars in revenue, a key threshold in becoming mainstream. Borrowing from Silicon Valley, I’ll use the term “revenue unicorn” for this milestone. Since that time, there has been no looking back.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently revealed its 2015 top 10 emerging technologies that offer “a glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet”. The list is comprised of fuel cell vehicles, next-generation robotics, recyclable thermoset plastics, precise genetic engineering techniques, additive manufacturing, emergent artificial intelligence, distributed manufacturing, ‘sense and avoid’ drones, neuromorphic technology, and digital genome. Interestingly, the identified technologies have a lot in common with Pangaea Ventures focus areas of energy, health, sustainability, and electronics, driven by advanced materials innovation to make the world better.