Rice U. technology startup Syzygy Plasmonics raises $76 million in latest funding round

Based on professors’ tech, it aims to commercialize decarbonization of hydrogen production and chemical manufacturing

Syzygy tour

HOUSTON – (Nov. 16, 2022) – Syzygy Plasmonics, a Houston-based startup fueled by technology developed at Rice University, has announced $76 million in Series C financing led by Carbon Direct Capital — one of the largest rounds of funding for a venture spun out of a Rice lab.

Syzygy is focused on commercializing deep decarbonization of chemical manufacturing processes. The company’s efforts combine new photocatalyst technology — the product of decades of research by Syzygy co-founders and technology advisers Naomi Halas and Peter Nordlander of Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics — with a novel reactor that utilizes common low-cost materials to manufacture hydrogen, ammonia, methanol and other chemicals, rather than relying on thermal energy. The result is a scalable, renewable, universal platform that uses different feedstocks to drive fundamental chemical reactions while reducing feedstock waste and producing fewer emissions.  

“Syzygy is hyper-focused on aligning energy, technology and sustainability,” said Syzygy chief technology officer and co-founder Suman Khatiwada, who holds a doctorate in materials science and nanoengineering from Rice. “The projects we are delivering are targeting zero-emissions hydrogen from green ammonia, low-emissions hydrogen from combustion-free steam methane reforming, and sustainable fuels made from carbon dioxide and methane. This technology is the future of chemical manufacturing.” 

Syzygy tour
Suman Khatiwada with Rice Provost Reggie DesRoches, Associate Dean of Engineering for Research and Innovation Marcia O'Malley, Dean of Engineering Luay Nakhleh and Syzygy co-founder and Rice Professor Naomi Halas during a tour of the Houston-based chemical manufacturing startup. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Khatiwada was active in the Rice entrepreneurship ecosystem and attended the Rice Alliance Ignite Entrepreneurship Trek to Silicon Valley. He was cofounder of Big Delta Systems (now EnPower), with two other Rice PhD students, Charudatta Galande and Neelam Singh, based on technology from the lab of Rice professor Pulickel Ajayan. Big Delta Systems is a graduate of Class 2 of the Rice Alliance’s OwlSpark Tech Accelerator.

Syzygy’s investors are active participants at Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forums, where Syzygy has pitched, including Aramco Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, Equinor Ventures, EVOK Innovations, GOOSE Capital, Sumitomo Corporation and Toyota Ventures. Select Series C participants have entered into commercial agreements with Syzygy to support their decarbonization goals.  

“Forward-thinking companies have moved beyond setting decarbonization goals to executing on them,” said Syzygy CEO and co-founder Trevor Best. “Syzygy is unique in that our technology can enable, low-carbon solutions to offer for both the hydrogen and the broader chemical manufacturing market.”