Biofuel startup Renmatix brings on BASF as backer

A startup that makes sugar from plants that can be turned into biofuels and biochemicals has brought on German chemical giant BASF as an investor. Renmatix, which only came out of stealth last September, announced on Tuesday that it has raised a round of $50 million, including $30 million from BASF.

While many biofuel companies take plants and waste and turn that into liquid fuel, Renmatix takes plants and waste and turns it into sugar that can then easily and cheaply be broken down by other biofuel makers. Essentially, the company has concentrated on the first link of the biofuel and biochemical value chain, and it will then be selling its sugars other biofuel and biochemical companies (like, you could imagine, BASF).

Renmatix specifically uses water at high temperatures and pressure as a solvent to break down biomass into usable sugars rapidly. They call the process “supercritical hydrolysis” and Renmatix says that while that process has been used in other industries like pharmaceuticals and coffee production, they are the first to implement the process for biofuels and biochemicals. The process is very rapid — think seconds and minutes — compared to other processes that can take days.

Renmatix also counts venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as an investor, and Kleiner Partner John Doerr sits on Renmatix’s board. The CEO of biofuel maker Amyris, (s amrs) John Melo, also sits on Renmatix’s board.