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Three materials start-ups attract funding

Firms say their technology will improve performance of solar cells, batteries, and 3-D printed parts

by Melody M. Bomgardner
July 4, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 27

Three materials start-ups have attracted funding to develop and scale up improved ingredients that may help solar, battery, and three-dimensional printing technologies reach the next level of performance.

Silicon wafer maker 1366 Technologies has a new partnership with solar silicon giant Wacker Chemie that includes a $15 million investment and an agreement for Wacker to supply polysilicon for the start-up’s direct wafer technology.

Wafers made by 1366 are not sliced from ingots but rather produced directly from molten silicon. The company says the process creates higher quality, more consistent wafers with fewer defects that impact the conversion efficiency of solar photovoltaics.

Silatronix, a spin-off from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Argonne National Labs, has raised $8 million to commercialize organosilicon materials for use in lithium-ion batteries. The compounds can be used as electrolytes, binders, and coatings to make batteries more thermally stable, more safe, and capable of using new, high-energy electrodes, Silatronix claims.

One investor, Inabata & Co., will distribute Silatronix products across Asia; Hitachi Chemical will evaluate the firm’s materials with its own lithium-ion anode materials.

And the explosion of new materials for 3-D printing now includes strong, lightweight composites developed by Arevo for aerospace, medical, and automotive markets. The California-based start-up raised $7 million in its first round of funding, led by Khosla Ventures.

Arevo produces filaments for the printers made by embedding thermoplastics with carbon fibers, carbon nanotubes, and glass fibers. The company also develops 3-D printing software and robotic manufacturing technologies.


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