Electron beam technology doesn’t usually get a lot of green ink, like electric vehicles or algae fuel. But conglomerate General Electric certainly seems to think it’s got potential for energy efficient manufacturing. This morning GE announced that its GE Energy Financial Services unit has invested more cash into Advanced Electron Beams, a startup which has developed a more energy-efficient form of electron beam technology — a stream of electrons that move very quickly and can kick-start chemical reactions and break down chemical structures in manufacturing and industrial processes.
The $14.2 million Series C round also included Flagship Ventures, Atlas Venture, General Catalyst Partners, RockPort Capital Partners and Agman Partners. The Wilmington, Mass.-based startup has now raised more than $50 million since October 2005.
So what’s Advanced Electron Beams’ innovation? The company says its electron beam emitter is smaller and less expensive than currently available options and can help companies in the manufacturing and packaging industries cut energy consumption — in some cases between 60 and 90 percent — while also reducing emissions and lowering costs. Applications include a lot of random manufacturing processes that you probably never think about, like sterilizing food and goods before packaging, or curing substances for printing and coating.
In essence, the technology can help clean up factories and lower the cost of manufacturing in a lot of subtle but important ways. Advanced Electron Beams’ CEO Mitch Tyson said in a statement that the vision is to create “the green factory of the future.” GE doesn’t invest in a lot of outside technology — it has a substantial R&D budget for internal engineering and innovation — so the conglomerate’s additional funding is an indicator that Advanced Electron Beams has a significant innovation for factory efficiency.