Novomer Raises $6.6M for Plastics from Pollution

It might not be able to spin straw into gold, but Novomer says its catalyst technology can turn pollution into biodegradable plastics, polymers (elastic materials such as rubber) and other chemicals.

Investors apparently think the idea is worth some gold, anyway. The Ithaca, N.Y.-based startup said Wednesday it raised $6.6 million in its first round of venture-capital funding from Physic Ventures and Flagship Ventures.

Founded in 2004, Novomer uses carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to make its plastics and polymers.

Novomer didn't say where it would get its carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, but claims those sources are cheaper than the crops currently used to make bioplastics.

If the technology ends up removing emissions from the air, it might also be able to sell carbon credits if the United States establishes a cap-and-trade system (see New Climate Bill Could Boost Greentech, Hillary Seeks Green Vote). Such a system would cap the emissions that companies can produce and set up a system to enable the trading of emission allowances.

Novomer's technology is based on polymer research led by Geoffrey Coates, a professor at Cornell University and chief science officer at the startup.

"Unlike other biodegradable plastics coming to market that are based on edible feedstocks and complex fermentation, we are using building blocks that are readily available and highly manageable," he said in a statement. "In particular, Novomer's use of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide as inexpensive feedstocks, rather than the use of valuable food resources, sets us apart from the competition."

The company does have plenty of competition. Large companies such as Cargill Dow and DuPont already make bioplastics -- but the joint venture doesn't make it from pollution."

Ecotality Enters Electric-Vehicle Charging Market

Ecotality, a company involved in hydrogen and fuel-cell technologies, on Wednesday announced its second acquisition of a company that makes battery chargers.

The Scottsdale, Ariz., company said it has bought Electric Transport Engineering Corp., also known as ETEC, for $6.25 million in cash and stock.

The latter company, based in Phoenix, makes chargers for electric vehicles, including airport ground-support vehicles and neighborhood vehicles.

Founded in 1996, the company counts among its customers major car manufacturers such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp., as well as airlines and government and research agencies.

ETEC claims its SuperCharge system charges batteries faster with less heat generation, prolonging battery life.

The company also tests battery performance and alternative-vehicle fleets, consults for customers with hybrids, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen vehicle fleets, designs electric-vehicle charging stations and the infrastructure for compressed natural gas and hydrogen fuels, develops lithium and nickel-metal-hydride batteries and consults for coal gasification and hydrogasification projects.

The news comes less than two months after Ecotality bought Innergy Power Corp., which makes solar panels, solar-powered chargers and thin, rechargeable lead-based batteries (see Ecotality Buys Innergy for $3M).

It also comes less than two weeks after Project Better Place, a company that plans to lease easily removable batteries for electric cars and build battery-charging and -replacement centers across the globe, raised a whopping $200 million (see New Choices At the Pump: Battery Recharge or Replacement).

Ecotality said the hybrid- and electric-vehicle battery market is expected to grow 14.8 percent per year through 2013, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.

"With major automakers and federal agencies focused on advancing hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles, ETEC's expertise in transportation, electrical infrastructure and industrial fast-charge systems expands our presence in the consumer market," said Ecotality CEO Jonathan Read, in a statement.

According to Ecotality, ETEC brings contracts worth about $11.4 million through 2009 and experience in developing hydrogen-powered vehicles and refueling systems that will benefit Hydrality, Ecotality's hydrogen-production and storage technology.

Read told Greentech Media in September that he expected to buy up to three more companies by the end of this year.