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pH Matter foresees big market by thinking small

Catalysis -- the process by which one substance creates or affects a reaction in another -- is, experts say, present in 90 percent of all commercially produced chemical products. From catalytic converters to fuel cells, petroleum refining to margarine, catalysts are used to produce desired reactions as part of the manufacturing process.

A Columbus-based startup in the TechColumbus incubator sees a future in the development of application-specific catalysts, but they're thinking very, very small.

pH Matter, LLC, has already received grants for research on projects for NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). For NASA: a catalyst for the continuous formation of carbon in a carbon dioxide and hydrogen-fed system to remove carbon dioxide from the cabin of manned space craft. For NSF: a contaminant-resistant catalyst for use in production of fuel from biomass.

Ultimately, however, the company wants to be a manufacturer of nano materials, carbon "doped" fibers for use in metal-air batteries, fuel cells and industrial electrolysis.

"Our core technology is fabrication of doped nanofibers for energy storage," says Paul Matter, Ph.D., president and founder. "This is something I worked on in grad school. I saw that a lot of other applications were arising, so I thought this would be a good basis for a company.

"The doping means we're taking carbon and replacing an atom with boron or nitrogen and when you do that it changes the electronic properties of the carbon. By controlling the carbon at the nano scale you can get vastly different properties."

Currently. Matter and his busines partner, Christopher Holt, vice president and director of engineering, are producing the fibers only at lab scale -- a couple of grams at a time for properties testing. In 2012, however, the company plans to build a pilot scale manufacturing system at TechColumbus. And from there?

"Right now," Matter says, "Based on initial testing and customer feedback, we see potential opportunities for our materials in energy storage applications, fuel cells, capacitors. And we have had some early conversations with battery and fuel cell manufacturers."

Source: Paul Matter, pH Matter
Writer: Dana Griffith
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