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BRISTOL BATTERY BUSINESS CLINCHES £1.2M FUNDING
April 2021

Bristol-based entrepreneurs, who have developed techniques to incorporate graphene into Li-ion batteries to improve battery life and charging times while reducing their cost, have raised roughly £1.2 million from investors in a new funding round. 

Anaphite, based in Unit DX in St. Philip’s, Bristol, was founded to look at ways to exploit the potential of graphene by scientists Sam Burrow and Alexander Hewitt after they left university. Their impressive work to develop an inexpensive and scalable process to incorporate graphene into battery materials (improving charge time and battery life) on existing cell production lines has excited investors. 

The funding round was led by Zero Carbon Capital, which is investing £300,000. Zero Carbon Capital backs UK-based hard-science start-ups on a mission to address the toughest problems of climate change.

Bristol Private Equity Club (BPEC) is investing £491,000, which represents the biggest ever single investment by the club, which is made up of successful entrepreneurs from the Bristol area. It is a second tranche of funding from BPEC, which previously invested in Anaphite.

L-R Anaphite Founders Sam Burrow and Alexander Hewitt

SyndicateRoom, a Fintech Venture Capital funder based in Cambridge, is investing £107,000 and the rest of the package of funds has come from individual investors.

Chief operating officer of Anaphite, Alexander Hewitt, said: “In order for society to transition to sustainable energy, we need mass adoption of electric transport, meaning batteries need to cost less, charge faster and live longer. We believe our technology truly addresses these critical pain points. 

“Our production process is also inherently scalable to the levels required to make a real dent in this rapidly growing industry, hopefully increasing our chances in the ongoing battle with climate change. Having such a diverse group of investors seeing the potential of what we have here is incredibly encouraging.”

Pippa Gawley, founder and managing director of Zero Carbon Capital, said: “Adoption of electric vehicles is a key part of the critical journey to net-zero emissions. Anaphite’s innovative technology will reduce the cost and charging time of EV batteries, removing two of the key purchase barriers. Sam and Alex are amazing scientists working in a deeply technical area and we’re excited to be partners on their journey toward commercialisation.”

Jerry Barnes, founder of Bristol Private Equity Club, said: “We supported a previous project of Anaphite involving graphene and we are pleased to have made another big investment in what is a very exciting science-led contribution to the way we all travel in the future.

“Our club is made up of Bristol-based entrepreneurs and it is great that the city is at the leading edge of this technology. It is heartening to join with others in backing Anaphite for future success.”

Tom Britton, co-founder of SyndicateRoom, said: “The potential for graphene to reshape many of the materials we use in everything from electronics to building materials is astonishing. We’re delighted to be a part of Anaphite’s journey to make graphene commercially viable and open the door for its seemingly limitless uses.”

Bristol firm’s camera helps find gas leaks
April 2021

A quantum-enabled gas imaging Lidar camera able to visualise and quantify methane leaks caused by oil and natural gas extraction and use has been developed by QLM Technology Ltd, based in Bristol.

Supported by BP, National Grid, AMETEK Land, and the UK Government, the camera represents a step-change in measuring emissions of methane, the second most damaging greenhouse gas. 

The main obstacle to stopping leaks from well-heads, storage, and distribution sites is not knowing where and when they are happening and how much is escaping. Often, the largest emission events at these sites are unplanned, intermittent releases, and without continuous, in-situ monitoring, emissions measurements by any other means will provide erroneous emissions estimates that can be too high or too low depending on when periodic monitoring takes place. The quantum-enabled camera makes complete and continuous monitoring possible for the first time, identifying and quantifying emissions as they occur.

Although the largest source of methane emissions is agriculture, responsible for around a quarter of all emissions, the second largest source is the energy sector. This includes emissions from coal, oil, natural gas and biofuels.

Murray Reed, CEO of QLM Technology, said: “Whilst the oil and gas majors have pledged to significantly reduce methane emissions in coming years, you can’t manage what you can’t measure; and no-one is measuring methane properly, continuously, and at scale.

“The scale of the problem is enormous, with more than half a million active gas wells in North America alone, 2,000 offshore rigs and nearly 1,000 natural gas storage facilities worldwide.

“In the UK alone, we have 24 pipeline compressor stations, which power long-distance natural gas pipes, and hundreds of above ground storage installations. All are leaking at some time.”

The launch of the quantum camera comes ahead of the UK-hosted UN climate change summit, COP26, in Glasgow. This is expected to set new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and will require accurate monitoring to be enforced. The quantum camera makes this possible.

Quantum technologies exploit the principles of quantum mechanics, which is an understanding of sub-atomic particles, to create advances across industry. QLM’s quantum-enabled gas imaging Lidar camera is one of the first commercially-available products from the £1 billion UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

As a key part of the Programme, the Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge (supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund) has backed more than 80 businesses, including QLM Technology Ltd.  Other ground-breaking products supported by the fund are due to be launched over the next 12 months.

Existing laser-based systems for methane quantification utilise complex and costly mirror arrays to reflect light in to a conventional detector.  By contrast, the QLM product uses a quantum single photon avalanche detector (SPAD) which is so sensitive it can detect just a few photons of light and can therefore “see” gas without the need for a mirror.

“With quantum technology, we have effectively made the whole world a mirror. This is a major breakthrough, and unlocks our ability to enable gas operators limit the emission of gases, starting with methane, that are having such a devastating impact on our planet,” said Dr Reed.

The quantum single-photon detection of the camera allows for gas plumes to be detected and measured over large physical distances.  The first version of the camera, mounted on a mast, is available for commercial trial this year, and trials involving UAV-mounted cameras are scheduled to begin next year.

In addition to being a significant source of pollution, the energy sector loses more than $30 billion worth of gas annually through accidental methane leaks from well-heads and pipelines.

The growing use of natural gas, which is frequently a by-product of oil extraction, is compounding the problem. Methane is its main constituent, but is only a clean energy source when in storage or burned. If released into the atmosphere, it is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Scientists have estimated that if just 3.2 per cent of all methane gas brought above ground at a well leaks, rather than being burned to generate electricity, natural gas becomes worse for the climate than burning coal.

There is particular concern that the fracking industry is now a major source of uncontrolled methane emissions.* 

It was estimated last year that 3.7 per cent of methane produced by fracking for oil in one area of Texas and New Mexico alone, the Permian basin, is being emitted, unburned, into the atmosphere.**

*https://insideclimatenews.org/news/22042020/permian-basin-methane-emissions-texas-new-mexico/

**https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/17/eaaz5120

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