India’s Tata invests in MIT spin-off Sun Catalytix

Sun Catalytix, a start-up developing a low-cost catalyst for hydrogen-based
energy system, said today that Indian industrial conglomerate Tata has invested
in the company.

Tata and Sun Catalytix’s current investor, venture capital firm Polaris
Ventures, put $9.5 million into the start-up in its series B round of funding.

The investment will allow Sun
to develop prototypes of its energy system, Daniel Nocera, the MIT
professor who developed the technology and founded
the company, said in a statement.

A diagram of how the Sun Catalytix fuel cell could be powered by solar panels. A diagram of how the Sun Catalytix fuel cell could be
powered by solar panels.(Credit: MIT)

Nocera’s research has focused on designing a catalyst made of inexpensive
materials to break off hydrogen from water. Sun Catalytix envisions distributed
energy where hydrogen is created by splitting water at people’s homes and fed
into fuel cells to make electricity

The company says that solar panels can power the water-splitting electrolyzer
that makes hydrogen. Such an approach would make it a very clean energy system.

The investment from Tata, which is focused on IT, energy, and consumer
products, is a vote of confidence in the technology and the company, which
Nocera spun off of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008.

Early tests of the catalyst have been promising, company executives have
said. Still, commercializing the research into a marketable product is
challenging, given that it relies on a number of technical components and needs
a distribution channel.

A fuel cell could be used in a number of applications. In a talk at MIT last
year, Nocera hoped that the technology would be used as an energy system in the developing world.

Sun Catalytix raised $3 million from Polaris
Ventures last November and has sought federal research loans.

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