Recent blog posts

With Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, and Apple's recent acquisition of Israeli 3D sensor company PrimeSense, sensors are making quite the splash these days. Increasingly, sensors are being deployed all around us measuring, interpreting, and transmitting troves of actionable data. Whether it's for a smarter building where an occupancy sensor detects if anyone is in a room, a manufacturing environment where sensors ensure tight process control, or in a car where rotation sensors detect a slipping wheel, sensors impact most major industries today.

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.

No NDAs, Please, We're VCs!

Posted by on in Venture Capital

This morning, a start-up company sent their first email to me after a warm introduction from a great former colleague of mine. I was quite positively predisposed to giving this opportunity some close attention, since I think quite highly of my buddy's judgment, and the company's technology put them well within Pangaea's advanced materials mandate.

Like a kid on Christmas, I didn't read the message, but immediately tore off the wrapping paper. The sole attachment to the email was a PDF, which I assumed to be their slide deck presentation, and I was eager to be blown away by the amazing technical and business innovation I hoped to find inside. What could it be!?!?

Electronics are complicated products. When you stop to really think about it and itemize the components of your flat screen TV, tablet, and even LED light bulb, there is much more than circuitry, wiring, and glass contained inside. There is, in fact, a significant opportunity for materials innovation as manufacturers seek to provide products that are lighter, faster, and more energy efficient. My colleague Andrew has previously blogged about LED lighting innovation in relation to increasing energy efficiency, and here I will focus on transparent conductive electrodes (TCEs), which are used in touch panels, flat displays, photovoltaics, lighting, and more.

Earlier this year I wrote about medical imaging and how advanced materials are improving CT and nuclear imaging. That is, semiconductor sensors using CZT materials are lowering x-ray and photon dosages while at the same time improving image quality. This blog expands on the health theme by providing three more examples of how advanced materials will impact human health. Biosensors can help people monitor their health and seek treatment when necessary. Nano-particles can carry and target drug treatment inside a patient’s body, and antimicrobial coatings can substantially reduce the rate of infection.

The Promise of Biochar

Posted by on in Sustainability

Charcoal: The word (for me at least) elicits thoughts of barbeque briquettes or perhaps the favored fuel source for a traditional blacksmith’s forge. It has been in use for thousands of years across the globe and isn’t typically thought of as a particularly “advanced material”. Compared to its allotropic carbon brethren (e.g. nanotubes, graphene, carbyne, activated and nanoporous carbons), charcoal has been the persona non grata. But perhaps we’re about to witness a change from low-value carbon residue to soil amendment and carbon sequestration extraordinaire – the proverbial ugly duckling story, if you will.

Magical Salts Changing Chemistry of Tomorrow

Posted by on in Energy

If you're like me you will always remember the grade-six science experiment where plain old table salt is dissolved in a beaker of water and used to conduct electricity and deliver power to a light bulb. To the wandering 11-year-old mind, the potential (somewhat devious) implications were pretty exciting. As it turns out, aqueous salt electrolytes are vital to countless applications, including pretty much every metabolic activity in the human body. Unfortunately for many useful industrial applications, the realities of evaporation, freezing, boiling and reactivity render these electrolytes useless. So what if there was a non-aqueous salt that remained liquid at room temperature and had a vapor pressure near zero? Well that would be called an ionic liquid, one of the most promising materials of this century.

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.

There is nothing the media loves better than making juice out of a government-funded lemon. FOX News managed to recycle the Solyndra flameout as lead story for months. But not everything touched by government turns to dust. When considering the risk-reward profile of materials and cleantech start-ups, in many cases government funding is REQUIRED along the path to success. While the shenanigans in DC over the last week have shown that rationality and government don’t always go hand in hand, for a materials focused start-up, a logical government funding progression might follow something like this…