The transaction is already final, though no financial terms were released. Both companies specialize in making chemicals from alternative sources. That is, alternative to petroleum.
Avantium, headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, aims to be the market leader in this emerging sector. “The extensive patent portfolio of Liquid Light brings Avantium in the top of the world’s Intellectual Property position in electrochemistry,” says Gert-Jan Gruter, chief technology officer of Avantium in a press release about the deal.
Avantium invents and develops what it calls renewable chemistry solutions, and finding ways to make specialty chemicals from bio-based materials. The patents Avantium purchased from Liquid Light align neatly with those objectives.
“Electro-catalysis is an emerging technology in the chemical industry that is based on electrical energy and catalytic reactions to drive chemical reactions. The technology enables the use of renewable energy for example from wind farms or solar panels for the chemical industry resulting in a significantly improved carbon footprint,” explains Gruter.
Liquid Light got its start in 2008. Prior to that, the team and tech that became this startup were at Princeton University.
Research had been done in the area back in the 1990s but it wasn’t until then-graduate-student Emily Cole expressed an interest in revisiting the experiments that the Princeton team, led by professor Andrew Bocarsly, developed a scalable way to reuse CO2. “The technology behind the process is simple: Take CO2 and mix it in a water-filled chamber with an electrode and a catalyst,” explains a Princeton news item about the initiative.
Over the past eight years, Liquid Light has grown and “invested more than US$35 million on low-energy electrochemistry technologies to convert CO2 to major chemicals,” as the Avantium press release explains.
Of the 100+ patents Liquid Light has filed, over 20 have already been granted. But it’s the full bunch of them that Avantium bought. That bunch comprises “filings on producing multiple chemical building blocks used in large existing markets, including oxalic acid, glycolic acid, ethylene glycol, propylene, isopropanol, methyl-methacrylate and acetic acid for the production of polymers, coatings and cosmetics.”
The tech acquisition advances Avantium significantly in the market. As Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium, sees it, “The acquisition of Liquid Light is an important step in our strategy to create and commercialize breakthrough technologies in renewable chemistry….This acquisition will enable the development of a powerful technology platform on the basis of CO2 feedstock.”