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Business

Avantium buys Liquid Light

Assets of start-up focused on making chemicals from CO2 go to Dutch research firm

by Marc S. Reisch
January 22, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 4

The assets of Liquid Light, a once-promising start-up that developed a process for converting carbon dioxide, water, and solar energy into a precursor for plastic water bottles, have been sold to the Dutch research firm Avantium for an undisclosed sum.

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Credit: Liquid Light
A Liquid Light employee assembles an electrocatalytic cell that makes ethylene glycol from CO2 in this photo taken in 2015.
Credit: Liquid Light
A Liquid Light employee assembles an electrocatalytic cell that makes ethylene glycol from CO2 in this photo taken in 2015.

One of C&EN’s 10 Start-Ups to Watch in 2015, Liquid Light was spun off of Princeton University in 2008 and had spent more than $35 million to develop its technology.

The young firm was even among a select group of biobased chemical firms to participate in Coca-Cola’s “green” soda bottle program, called PlantBottle. However, by mid-2016, the firm’s CEO and chief scientific officer were gone, according to their profiles on the business networking website LinkedIn.

With the sale complete, two Liquid Light employees have joined Avantium in Amsterdam and two others will consult with the firm, says Gert-Jan Gruter, Avantium’s chief technology officer. Also transferring to Avantium are more than 100 patents and patent applications covering electrochemical methods to make ethylene glycol for beverage bottles and other building blocks.

Avantium, which also has an electrochemical research unit, will focus on perfecting Liquid Light’s electrochemical-cell hardware and on developing the technology for high-value chemicals such as oxalic acid and glycolic acid, Gruter says.

A high-throughput experimentation specialist, Avantium has done research for chemical firms and worked with Coca-Cola to develop the new bottle polymer polyethylene furanoate (PEF). In October, Avantium formed a joint venture with BASF to build a multi-million-dollar plant in Belgium to make furandicarboxylic acid, a biobased feedstock for PEF.

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Comments
Frits Dautzenberg (January 28, 2017 11:51 AM)
This opens the way to a complete bio-degradeable route to plastics for bottles etc.

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