Electrodes are conductors that play an essential role in the energy storage of materials such as fuel cells, which are found in NASA and military aircraft, and lithium ion batteries, found in smart phones, laptops and other essential electronic tools. pH Matter in Columbus, Ohio, is developing its own carbon-based nanoparticles for more efficient, more durable electrodes uniquely designed to provide huge energy advantages.
“Typically, you’ll find carbon material in electrodes, but it’s not enhanced. You may also find graphite mined out of the ground or carbon black, which was originally developed as an additive for tires. Nothing is optimized for electrodes,” said Paul Matter, Ph.D. and pH Matter co-founder and CEO. “We started producing our own carbon materials from scratch that are engineered specifically for these fuel cell and battery applications. They can give fuel cells better performance and better durability. With the batteries, they can help them store more energy.”
The carbon found in traditional fuel cell and lithium ion battery electrodes is generally produced from cheap sources like coconut shells or graphite. For years, this was a perfectly fine, low-cost solution. But as advancements in electrical engineering and a demand for electric automobiles and more efficient fuel cells has grown, technology needed to evolve. pH Matter’s nano-carbon technology enables greater energy storage than traditional technology in the same-sized battery.
This growing call for new, renewable energy solutions has presented pH Matter with substantial opportunities to scale their business. Alternative energy sources need advanced energy storage systems—which pH Matter is producing in their Columbus laboratory. As a result of their technology, they’ve received funding for research projects with NASA, the Department of Energy and the Air Force.
“Part of our expertise is the process. We’ve developed the technology ourselves that enables us to develop this material at scale,” said Matter. “We can make large quantities of these materials and keep our costs low, which is attractive to potential partners and customers.”
Matter worked on similar carbon materials as a graduate student at The Ohio State University, and after gaining more experience working at a fuel cell company post-graduation, decided to form his own company. Matter licensed and enhanced the technology from OSU, and with support and lab space from Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier, the company was founded. Further support from an Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-Up Fund (TVSF) grant and federal SBIR/STTR grants has helped pH Matter to grow.
“I’m not sure how we could have done it without that initial lab space at Rev1 that was just ready to go. It’s hard to find available labs, and very expensive to build one, so that’s a huge asset to startup companies,” said Matter. “We’re focused now on scaling the business to eventually partner with a large company, selling them raw materials to improve their products. Honestly, the support we’ve gotten in Ohio and specifically these Columbus resources has made our goals seem very attainable.”