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Nanoparticle size selection tool for new generation Model Catalyst

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ModCat (Nanoparticle size selection tool for new generation Model Catalyst)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2019-09-30

"VSParticle is extremely grateful for the opportunity we got from the EU for economic and technical validation within SME phase 1. The goal of the feasibility study funded by grant #869072 was to improve our commercial readiness and evaluate potential impact of our technology in catalysis development.
New catalysts are crucial to accelerate the energy transition and to solve our CO2 challenge. Catalysis is therefore high on the European agenda to achieve a zero-carbon EU energy system by 2050, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Due to their size, shape and high surface-to-volume ratio, nanoparticles are extremely effective as catalysts and lower the amount of the required valuable catalytic material. However, the production of nanoparticles and the ability to control size, shape and composition remains extremely difficult and time consuming. Current sample preparation times with wet chemicals range from one to several days, with success rates around 5-10% per sample. This drastically slows down the nano-catalyst research process, resulting in multiple sample preparation attempts and months of work to investigate a single material. With the current available technologies the development of new catalyst is not fast enough and the 2050 deadline set by the EU will not be met.

We propose a completely unique novel technology for the automated production of catalytic nanoparticles. Researchers can investigate multiple materials, resulting in a quick iteration process in finding the optimal catalytic material. Our preparation time is generally 30 to 60 minutes, with success rates close to 100%, allowing researchers to focus on analysis of their sample, rather than on synthesis. The configuration step is automated and predictive, meaning researchers no longer have to develop recipes through trial-and-error to obtain the desired material properties.

The goal of the feasibility study in SME Phase 1 was to investigate the catalysis market, and test the market potential of our latest technology, the nanoparticle size selector. Upgrading our prototype system to technical readiness level (TRL) 6 and ultimately reaching commercial readiness level (CRL) 5, which means a deep understanding of the target market and applications, and validate the value proposition of the product. This section describes how this goal was achieved via the following four tasks.
1. Detailed market analysis
2. Partnerships and technical validation
3. IPR and patent mapping
4. Business case"
"A detailed market analysis was performed via primary and secondary market research, indicating the market size, growth and trends. We further developed our relationships with potential end users through multiple marketing activities; conference visit, user visits, customer demo's, open lab day, distributor feedback. And we formed a strong basis for a new marketing strategy: launching a material pioneers network. We achieved an overwhelming presence at EuropaCat, the biggest European catalysis conference. Where we introduced our solution with a large booth and a strong mission statement: ""To accelerate the energy transition and solve out CO2 challenges we have to screen millions of new catalysts in the next decade. Our mission is to enable this"".

We received valuable user feedback through various customer demonstrations for technical and specification validating using the demonstrator system. We applied for a patent on our solution and evaluated three contract manufacturers for detailed engineering and manufacturing, and selected the most qualified partner, who also had the most economic offer.

All input was gathered in a lean business canvas to provide direction and set focus in terms of market selection and defining our core competences. The goal was achieved by sharpening our value proposition and strengthening our preliminary business plan, and look with confidence at growth of our company in this field. We compiled the business case into a proposal for the EIC SME Accelerator grant in October 2019."
Our unique technology and expertise allows us to make an impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Both in sustainable, digitalized and accessible industrialization of nano-engineered materials, as in the applications derived from it. Improved catalysts will result in less waste and lower energy costs within the industry, which is beneficial for both the economy and environment.

Due to the nature of our unique technology, we are transforming the industry into one that is safe, sustainable and based on prediction instead of human trial & error. Progressing from wet chemical synthesis to synthesis powered by renewably generated electricity has numerous advantages. No other chemicals are needed for the process and there is no harmful and unnecessary toxic waste. The more controlled and predictive nanomaterial production becomes, the less we will waste in the process. The method for discovering and producing nanoparticles is combined with mathematical models and software, transforming the industry from a trial-and-error basis to by-design. In line with: SDG 9, 11

Our production process has the unique opportunity to revolutionize the nature of the industry of nanomaterials and their applications, fitting with an economy that is circular and zero-waste. The control we have over particle size, material purity and composition opens up the possibility to quickly find new material properties. This is much needed for the energy transition, as that requires large quantities of critical metals, which proposes a challenge in their availability . The first step is the ultra efficient use of those metals through nano-engineering: finding their optimum property and do more with less. The second step is replacing critical metals with nano-engineered alternatives with the same properties. Geopolitically, this will become increasingly important. As we build a strong EU knowledge and production base of advanced materials we will reduce our dependence on specific raw materials that are unavailable in the EU. In line with: SDG 12.

Catalysis can also be used to protect us from harmful substances, by converting them through a chemical reaction into another safer substance. Increasing scientific knowledge on material catalytic properties and its applications, helps scientists to solve questions on the protection of human and environmental health against harmful substances. Transformation towards an effective renewable energy system requires the invention of new energy sources and the optimization of existing ones. Energy technologies rely on the properties of materials and their availability, which proposes challenges we aim to help solve. See also: SDG’s 3, 6, 11, 7.
VSPARTICLE at EuropaCat 2019
How many catalysts can you screen in one day?