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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.

Thermoelectrics Deserve Some Heat

Posted by on in Energy

Would you be surprised to learn that the most advanced economy in the world is only forty percent efficient at utilizing its key input?   Shockingly, of the 100 Quads of energy consumed in the United States in 2014, only 40 quads performed useful services such as cooling a building or transporting the kids to soccer practice.  The remaining was lost as heat.  A shameful waste or a tremendous opportunity?   

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.

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.

You know the Chinese finger trap? It's a tube of bamboo woven in such way that it tightens up if you pull on it. The idea is you put your fingers in, but the harder you try to pull them out, the tighter the trap will grip you. And it was the only thing my daughter wanted me to bring back as a souvenir of China.

Pangaea has been an investor into China for a few years now, having co-led the Series A into Cnano, now the world leading supplier of multi-walled carbon nanotubes, mostly used in battery or composite plastics applications. But when I heard the reciprocal might be possible – i.e. China investing in Pangaea – I had to check it out.

Oh, the Places Graphene'll Go!

Posted by on in Advanced Materials

From advanced composite additives for polypropylene
To transistors and transparent conductors nearly unseen
Possibilities almost limitless, conjugatively bound only by dreams

The anticipation is palpable; industry and academia set afire
All over this carbon allotrope, this atomic-scale chicken wire

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.

The State of Nanotechnology

Posted by on in Advanced Materials

Nanotechnology has always been around but got a big boost with Richard Feynman’s lecture titled “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” in 1959. The introduction of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 and bucky balls (60 carbon atoms) in 1985 further ramped up the interest level. Then came the ambitious predictions and amazing forecasts. Everyone, including me, wanted to get some action. The rush generated lots of activities in terms of startup companies and investments and naturally, there was the inevitable disappointment. These days, the decibel level is lower but make no mistake, nanotechnology is now integrated into conventional technologies and making a difference. Both startups and large corporations are introducing nano-enabled products in the marketplace across industries that include energy, chemicals, environmental, electronics/semiconductor, personal care, textiles, agriculture, transportation, biomedical/biotechnology, and packaging. Already, over 800 everyday products (Nano.gov) rely on nanoscale materials and processes and this will surely continue to expand.