Purnesh Seegopaul

Purnesh Seegopaul

General Partner, Pangaea Ventures Ltd. Purnesh has worked with advanced materials for over 25 years, directly involved with clean technologies, nanotechnology, semi-conductors, thin films and coatings, catalysts, powder metallurgy, and manufacturing technologies.View Purnesh Seegopaul's profile on LinkedIn

"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." We have come a long way since these words of wisdom from Thomas Edison way back in 1931! Solar energy or photovoltaic (PV), a key component in the renewable energy mix, continues to grow, with a record 57 GWp installed in 2015. The compound annual growth rate of PV installations was 41 % in the 2000 to 2015 period (Fraunhofer ISE). Wafer-based crystalline silicon is still the dominant technology, accounting for more than 90% of global PV production. Still playing catch up are the many thin film technologies led by cadmium telluride (CdTe). The early predictions of thin film technologies surge did not materialize, resulting in the failure of many startups. But the technologies are alive and well, amidst continuing efforts to lower cost and improve conversion efficiency. Advanced materials still hold the keys to success in the race to boost PV efficiency levels.

Sustainable Innovation For Food Security

Posted by on in Health

By 2050, the global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion! As a result, world food production will need to rise by 70%, and food production in the developing world will need to double, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN! Barring large-scale migration to the other planets, we will simply need more food. Add the energy, water and climate change challenges and you know we are in trouble. Luckily, there are efforts underway to implement innovative, sustainable solutions addressing food security. Approaches include changes in distribution and intelligent packaging to minimize waste, use of smart agriculture techniques to impact crop durability and yield, adopting environmentally friendly pest control and disease treatment, diversifying food sources and strengthening aquaculture. These are expected to have broad impact across the food groups, namely, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins.

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.

Fuel cell cars are once again in the spotlight! Hyundai is leasing its Tucson Fuel Cell model and aiming for 1000 units by 2015. Honda plans to start selling their model in 2016 while Toyota revealed its Mirai (Japanese for “Future”) that is slated for release this month (Japan) and later next year in USA and Europe. Ford, Daimler and Renault-Nissan are jointly developing technology for “affordable, mass market fuel cell vehicles by 2017” while General Motors and Honda initiated a development partnership last year. Even the New York Times ran a supportive editorial on November 29th titled, “Hydrogen Cars, Coming Down the Pike”. But despite the big headlines and model releases, it’s still a long, bumpy road ahead for fuel cell cars. Unfilled promises and lofty projections have generated a healthy dose of skepticism. At Pangaea Ventures, we have been and are still on the lookout for game changing technology solutions to remove the high barriers in the way of mass deployment of fuel cells (FCs).

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.

Manufacturing Heading into Better Times

Posted by on in Sustainability

“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.

Natural gas and natural gas liquids represent advantaged feedstocks for a wide range of high value chemicals and fuels. The growing natural gas abundance coupled with low pricing has spurred companies to take a fresh look at gas to liquid conversion technologies. The timing is just right for a radical change. With a game changing approach in mind, Pangaea completed an investment in Calysta Energy, a company innovating the next generation of GTL technology based on disruptive bioconversion.

Lightweight advanced materials are all around us. These materials have low densities and include carbon fibers, glass fibers, metals, alloys and intermetallics, polymers, ceramics, nanocarbon and other nanomaterials, aerogels, bio-based fibers, composites of polymers, metals and ceramics, and structural materials. The materials can be fabricated in various structural forms, such as, open-cell and closed-cell foams, honeycombs and porous scaffolds for lightweighting benefits. Nature, as usual, is always ahead and deploys lightweight cork, balsa, sponge and bone. Pangaea Ventures monitors the technology innovation stream closely and have portfolio companies whose products benefit lightweighting applications. Some of our Strategic Limited Partners actively participate in the lightweight materials markets with leading edge products.

The advanced materials industrial value chain incorporates activities that range from securing input materials to transformation processes into output products with all the supporting functions. Not just intermediate products for additional conversion but all the way to the final product in the hands of the end user. Primary activities include raw materials management, production processes, intermediate products and end-user products. This in turn involves a large array of support tasks, such as supplier control, product design, engineering, research and development, testing and quality management, product qualification, marketing and sales, regulatory compliance, life cycle management, and customer satisfaction. It should be noted that the concept of value chain management received a lot of attention following Michael Porter’s seminal work on "Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining superior Performance". For over a decade, Pangaea Ventures has been building advanced material startup companies and this experience has allowed us to establish some best practice approaches that include industrial value chain management.

Catalysts are advanced materials that enable chemical transformations. It is estimated that more than 60% of chemical products and 90% of chemical processes are made possible by catalysis. The catalyst market size exceeds $25 billion and involves large industries supplying products and services critical to everyday living. Enzymes, which are nature’s catalysts, drive the biochemical processes in living organisms and anchor industrial biocatalysis. Catalysis is now expected to play a crucial role in transformational technologies designed to usher in a better and cleaner world. This is key area of interest for Pangaea Ventures and our portfolio companies are already leveraging unique catalytic processes to engineer and manufacture novel advanced materials.