The nanotechnology of this startup creates new supplies for the power transition

To reach the next level of civilization, mankind has always relied on a material revolution. Dutch nanoparticle technology startup VSParticle says it is on the verge of unlocking a century’s worth of material innovations over the next 10 years, helping to save the planet.

Co-founder and CEO Aaike van Vugt believes we need to significantly accelerate the material development process to reach our goals of keeping global warming well below 2°C.

“The amount of material innovations that we need to unleash over the next few decades to make the whole energy transition a reality is equivalent to the amount that would normally be released in 100 years,” van Vugt tells TNW. “It is very important that we fundamentally change the process in which we produce new materials.”

A you delft The spinout, founded in 2014, has just been secured by the company €14.5 million in a funding round led by Plural. The money will be used to scale up VSP’s nanoparticle technology, which allows the company to print new materials made up of any combination of 64 different elements. The company says it wants to start by helping to solve crucial issues related to sustainability and the energy transition.

Accelerating the green hydrogen economy

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In particular, VSParticle deals with the development of catalyst-coated membranes (CCMs). These are a crucial component of proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis, a technology used to produce green hydrogen. In addition, the company says its technology will accelerate the production of new gas sensors that could detect air pollution, but also Early signs of disease from human breath.

CCM technology relies on the use of scarce and expensive metals such as platinum and iridium. VSP’s technology, which allows materials to be broken down into nanoparticles and then reassembled in various configurations, will help to develop new combinations of materials incredibly quickly. According to the company, this makes it more affordable to scale up production.

This in turn will support the EU mission to produce 10 million tons of green hydrogen annually by 2030. Additionally, this type of innovation could make the block less reliant on outside access to rare minerals for things like semiconductors, avoiding potential future resource-related conflicts.

A nanoparticle “big bang”

The basis of all VSParticle products is the VSP-G1, a “user-friendly tabletop nanoparticle generator”. It features a plug-and-play electrode system that allows users to change materials quickly and easily, and is compatible with 62 different elements including gold, zinc, copper and palladium. Solid rods of the material to be processed are inserted into the system. Then there is what van Vugt calls a “big bang”.

“An electrical spark creates a very localized, very intense hot plasma with a temperature of up to 20,000 degrees Celsius. And this is basically about breaking down the basic structure of the metal into the most preliminary form – the atoms,” says van Vugt. “So you get an evaporated cloud of this material, and from that evaporated cloud we direct the formation of these nanoparticles, which are our universal building blocks.”

The CEO of VSP stands in front of a machineAaike van Vugt co-founded the company in 2014. Photo credit: VSParticle

These building blocks are then used by the VSP-P1 NanoPrinter. The device, which will ship to customers this year, works in a similar way to a regular office inkjet printer. However, four primary colors are not used to create a range of shades.

In a fully automated process, nanoparticles from 64 different elements are combined into completely different materials. Essentially, You could ask a million machines to come up with new combinationsand they just kept going.

Discover great inorganic potential

VSParticle has already proven itself that it can reduce the material production and discovery cycle from months to just one hour. The technology combines trial and error in the laboratory, optimization of the production process and scaling up to mass production and its potentialAccording to van Vugt, it is downright monumental.

“For all the work we’ve done as humans, we’ve unlocked less than 1% of what’s possible in inorganic space. And we’re trying to develop the best process — we call it our automated or self-driving lab — that’s capable of, say, verifying the other 99% of possibilities that haven’t been discovered yet.”

VSParticle has participated in MIT’s Student Venture Accelerator DELTA V and is part of the Dutch Techleap Pole Position cohort for deep tech startups. The latest round of funding includes a €3.5 million grant from NXTGEN HIGHTECH, bringing the total amount raised by the company to €17 million.

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