Green Plastics Startup Novomer Raises $14M

I’ve never understood why biofuels get so much more attention than the sister biz of bioplastics — blending agricultural waste and other bioproducts into plastic materials is a massive, relatively untapped market. Investors in Novomer, a startup that uses recycled carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to make polymers and plastics, clearly agree, though they seem to see pollution as a winning feedstock. The company is expected to announce on Wednesday that it’s raised a $14 million Series B round of funding from OVP Venture Partners and including Physic Venture Partners, Flagship Venture Partners and DSM Venturing.

This latest round brings the Boston-based company’s total to $21 million, and Novomer says it will be used to prepare for “broad commercialization.” The company already sells a modest amount of a product called “NB-180,” which is about half carbon dioxide. It’s what industrial manufacturers call a “sacrificial binder,” meaning the product is used to hold two pieces of metal together during the high-precision manufacturing of products like electronics, fuel cells, nanomaterials and solar panels. In the manufacturing process the binder is burned away and the carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere.

The greener aspect of Novomer’s binder is that it’s made of recycled carbon dioxide, and Novomer says it also burns cleaner than other binders. Still, the high-precision sacrificial binder biz is relatively small — about 300,000 pounds per year, the company estimates — and Novomer is also developing other products.

The company’s innovation is the catalyst-based process that create the plastics and other materials out of carbon dioxide and monoxide pollution. The technology was developed by Professor Geoffrey Coates and his research group at Cornell University. While the intellectual property might be strong, clearly one of the big issues, as it is with all biofuels and green plastics, is scale. To address that, Novomer is looking to build partnerships with companies that produce the CO2, like a concrete manufacturer or power company.

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