Dutch startup VSParticle is today announcing a €14.5m investment round as it gets ready to scale up its nano-printing technology that it says drastically speeds up the process of synthesising novel materials.
The round was led by London-based Plural with Berlin-based BlueYard Capital also participating.
What does VSParticle do?
The team behind VSParticle — a spinout company from TU Delft — has spent the past eight years developing a nano-printer for quickly creating new materials.
The startup's focusing on the green hydrogen and air sensor markets — two sectors that require highly specialised materials for product breakthroughs.
In the case of green hydrogen, VSParticle’s technology is being used by researchers to help develop materials that would reduce the amount of iridium — a scarce and expensive metal — used in the production process.
When it comes to air sensors, the startup’s founder Aaike van Vugt says that new materials could one day form part of a phone sensor that could be used to scan your breath for gas particles that may signal early-stage cancer.
“At some point in the future when you finish the phone call, it could give you a notification that you need to go to the doctor saying, ‘We detected the very early trace of a certain gas molecule that is an indication of a tumour starting to grow,’” he explains.
Developing new materials has traditionally been a fairly manual process, with researchers needing to create bespoke conditions in a laboratory to build and test them. VSParticle says that its technology reduces the time to develop a new material from 15 years to one.
Van Vugt describes how the printer can be fed with “most” of the elements of the periodic table to create new combinations of those elements. Then researchers can input the type of material they’re trying to make with different elements, and the printer will combine those elements in the desired ratios to create a new material.
“The inkjet printer in your office takes four basic colours and mixes those colours in any ratio and prints them,” he says. “Our printer is able to mix all those different materials [from the periodic table] in any ratio fully automatically and then print them into the form of new materials.”
What’s the market like?
Other companies working in the novel material space include US-based Kebotix and Gingko Bioworks, but van Vugt says his company’s technology is unique in offering an automated material synthesis machine that works at pace.
He adds that VSParticle has already sold 40 machines to research labs at institutions including the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan, the National University of Singapore and Technion in Israel.
The company is now working on serving the industrial market, with companies like UK-based chemicals producer Johnson Matthey and German manufacturing multinational Bosch increasingly looking to develop new materials in-house.
The company’s new round of financing will see it double its headcount from 30 to 60, with a focus on serving the industrial market. Some of those hires will be on the technical team, while some will be focussed on business development.