Siluria Pockets $20M For Making Cleaner Plastics, Fuels

9/27/11Follow @xconomy

San Francisco-based Siluria Technologies has raised another $20 million to build on its early lab work, in turning one of the most abundant substances on the planet into a renewable resource for making plastics, fuels, and specialty chemicals.

Siluria said today it has raised $20 million in a Series B financing led by The Wellcome Trust, and which included existing investors Alloy Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Altitude Life Science Ventures, Lux Capital, and Presidio Ventures. The company said last October that it completed a Series A round worth $13.3 million.

The big idea at Siluria, which has its origins in the lab of Angela Belcher at MIT, is to make catalysts that can convert a cheap and abundant raw material like methane into valuable chemicals like ethylene, the ubiquitous ingredient found in plastics, or other petrochemical derivatives like fuels. Ethylene—which goes into everything from water bottles, eyeglasses, and the hard plastic casings of your laptop—today is produced through a high-heat process that “cracks” petrochemicals. Siluria’s plan is to reduce the heat needed to make the conversion, and therefore, reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“On short order Siluria solved a decades-old challenge—the direct conversion of methane to high-value products,” said Leighton Read, Siluria’s chairman and a partner at Alloy Ventures, in a statement. He added: “Siluria, with its masterful combination of nanomaterial science, biotechnology, and chemical engineering, is opening an oil-free path to fuels and chemicals.”

Today’s statement doesn’t say anything specific about what Siluria plans to do with the money, or what its next steps are in terms of demonstrating how the technology works at industrial scales. Siluria president Alex Tkachenko told Forbes that the financing “puts us on a path toward a commercially demonstrated process by 2013.”

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