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Last Updated : Oct 15, 2020 03:05 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

This clean-energy startup, which is helping the Indian Army battle Covid-19, is looking for Series B funding

Bengaluru-based Log9 Materials, known for its clean-energy solutions, is also building corona ovens to sanitise groceries, equipment, gloves and other items. Its graphene-based absorption pads were deployed to tackle the Mauritius oil spill recently. The company is now looking to raise Series B funding

When the top leadership of the Indian Army was scouting for solutions to keep the equipment used by the forces safe from the highly contagious coronavirus that causes Covid-19, it was a Bengaluru-based startup that stepped up to meet its requirements.

Log9 Materials, a nanotechnology startup, supplied its corona ovens to the armed forces to sanitise bullet-proof jackets, masks and other items regularly used by the forces. Not only the Indian Army, the ultra-violet boxes have found use in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (which is at the forefront of India’s war against the pandemic), multiple government departments and even at airports to sanitise baggage.

There are around 2,000 customers using these solutions in India and countries such as France, Nepal and Sri Lanka, among others.

“UV rays can help clean air and kill virus and bacteria, thereby helping sanitise bundles of cash, grocery items, masks, gloves, paperwork and many other items,” said Akshay Singhal, cofounder of Log9 Materials.

The company is looking for $10 million in equity funding and is already in talks with global funds. Singhal said he is looking for clean energy funds and social impact funds for a strategic round, which will help scale up production and find buyers for Log9’s products. Till date, the startup has raised Rs 24 crore from Sequoia Surge and Exfinity Venture Partners.

Core tech around graphene

Log9 Materials first shot to fame because of its initiatives in the green energy space. The founders have worked on graphene, which can help solve many of the world’s energy issues.

Having graduated with a PhD in nanotechnology from IIT Roorkee, Singhal partnered with Kartik Hajela, another IIT Roorkee graduate, to start the company in 2015. Log9 counts Pankaj Sharma, founder of LeadInvent Pharma, a US-based drug delivery company, as its cofounding advisor.

The startup is testing aluminum- and graphene-based fuel cells that can power vehicles five times more than normal Lithium-ion batteries do. The company wants to fit these in long-distance buses that can run 500-1,000 kilometres with a single battery pack. Interestingly, they do not require any recharge — the aluminum cells just need to be replaced, a task that can be completed in a few minutes.

This gives these batteries an advantage over regular batteries, which need hours to recharge and typically end up in a landfill at the end of their lifetime. The beauty of the product is that the metal, which gets degraded into powder form after use, can be sweltered to make fresh plates, thereby making the product recyclable.

“We have been holding conversations with mobility companies in India and pitching our product to them. We are also in discussions with fuel retailers so that replacement centres can be created along highways,” said Singhal.

Fuel absorption

Interestingly, graphene can also help absorb oil from water, thereby making it useful in tackling oil spills, too. Log9 is looking to utilise this property of graphene to shore up it's revenue potential since it has massive industrial-use options. It worked with Indian Oil Corporation to help control the recent oil spill in Mauritius.

Log9 has created a product called Sorbene, which has been tested against British standards, and the company claims it can absorb oil up to 86 times it weight.

“We supplied 10,000 graphene based absorption pads that were deployed to control the oil spill in Mauritius recently,” said Singhal. The company is also working with Reliance Industries for industrial-grade deployment.

The spill-control products have been sold outside the country too.

Deep tech in India

Building deep-tech startups in India is a big challenge. Every entrepreneur working on highly advanced innovations in India goes through a phase trying to convince local investors and the government to help. But unlike their consumer focussed counterparts, deep-tech innovators finds it difficult to get investors.

During a previous conversation with Moneycontrol, Saankhya Labs, a semiconductor startup in Bengaluru, had highlighted how it had stopped all conversations with Indian VCs since they hardly understood its business.

Similarly Log9 has not found much favour yet with the government for any kind of financial support. Singhal said he has had multiple conversations with government departments, but nothing has come of it.

The company currently competes with an Israeli entity, Phinergy, which is also working in the clean-energy space. Indian Oil Corporation has a minority stake in Phinergy as well and the duo is working together to develop clean-energy solutions for the country.

Further challenges also arise when it comes to manufacturing high-end technology-enabled products in India. As Singhal pointed out, simple machines can be manufactured by local equipment manufacturers, but when it comes to complicated designs, the company will have to set up manufacturing in-house.

“And that would require us to raise more money,” he explained.
First Published on Oct 15, 2020 03:05 pm