Syzygy Plasmonics raises $23M Series B to electrify chemical manufacturing; photocatalytic reactor for hydrogen production
Syzygy Plasmonics, a technology company developing a high-performance photocatalyst for the industrial gas, chemical and energy industries, announced a $23-million Series B financing led by Horizons Ventures with participation from new global investors including Equinor Ventures. (Earlier post.)
Licensed from Rice University, Syzygy’s “antenna-reactor” plasmonic photocatalyst has been published in leading academic journals such as Science, Nature, and PNAS.
The Antenna-Reactor is the combination of a larger light-harvesting plasmonic nanoparticle (the ‘Antenna’), and smaller traditional catalyst nanoparticles (the ‘Reactor’). Although the catalyst is important, the proprietary reactor design is what makes it work. The development of the reactor incorporates expertise from chemical engineering, optics, materials science, theoretical physics, and nanophotonics.
Previous seed and Series A investors including The Engine, GOOSE Capital, and Evok Innovations also joined the round. The capital raised will fund product development, hiring and the commercialization of Syzygy’s photocatalytic reactor, which are key steps toward delivering on the company’s mission to reduce emissions using light to replace heat from fossil fuels in chemical manufacturing and production.
Today, the production of chemicals such as plastics, fuels, fertilizers, and hydrogen is primarily reliant on fossil fuel. The heat demand to power the combustion processes for chemical production accounts for 3.6% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Syzygy’s photocatalytic technology replaces heat with light to trigger these chemical reactions—a transformation in industrial processing that aims to reduce 1GT of CO2 emissions by 2040.
With renewable electricity as an energy source, our technology is cleaner, and because of the stability and activity of our photocatalysts, we can drive dozens of possibilities, tuning reactions that produce different chemicals. Our initial product will focus on eliminating emissions from hydrogen production, transforming the industrial process involved in making semiconductors, LEDs and metals. Our system will also enable industries that are consumers of hydrogen fuel cells, like fuel cell vehicles.—Trevor Best, Syzygy Plasmonics’ co-founder and CEO
Based on photocatalysts invented at Rice University by co-founders and professors Naomi Halas and Peter Nordlander and developed under the leadership of Syzygy’s co-founder and CTO Dr. Suman Khatiwada, Syzygy’s light-powered reactors are modular and scalable, built from lower-cost materials with far milder operating conditions than their traditional counterparts.
The elimination of the combustion of fuel, coupled with the ability to operate at low temperatures in a distributed, decentralized manner will enable the shift from high-cost production plants, bringing the production of chemicals closer to the end user and effectively further driving down costs and emissions by eliminating those associated with distribution.
Syzygy’s first product offering is aimed at hydrogen where the technology has the potential to cut the cost of zero emission hydrogen in half, when compared to other alternatives such as electrolysis.
Syzygy’s team brings together world-class academic, entrepreneurial and chemical and engineering talent from Rice University, University of Houston and Baker Hughes. The company employs 26 and anticipates doubling its workforce over the next 12 months, hiring top-tier mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering, project and supply chain management talent. Team expansion will help continue to scale Syzygy’s technology to achieve its first full-size, commercial-ready chemical reactors in 2022.
Previously, Syzygy raised nearly $12 million and secured Department of Energy ARPA-E and National Science Foundation SBIR Program grants.