[caption id="attachment_224047" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Versogen has been improving its patented anion-exchange membrane, seen here, for clients, but it's moving toward building larger electrolyzer stacks, seen at center. | DBT PHOTO BY ERIC CROSSAN[/caption]
NEWARK – The green hydrogen startup Versogen will be returning to its Newark roots in a $4.8 million expansion that will add dozens of new jobs.The firm, which grew out of research by University of Delaware professor Yushan Yan, will be relocating from its current labs at The Innovation Space at DuPont’s Experimental Station near Wilmington to a larger space at FMC Stine Research Center in Newark.
[caption id="attachment_224046" align="alignright" width="300"] Versogen will move to this building on the FMC Stine Research Center in coming months. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DPP[/caption]
In supporting that expansion, the state’s investment board, the Council on Development Finance, unanimously approved a $450,380 lab space grant and a $151,343 job performance grant to create 49 new engineering, manufacturing and executive jobs over the next three years. Versogen currently employs 16 people.In thanking the state for its support over the last few years, Yan said in a statement that “the grants approved today for Versogen from the Delaware Strategic Fund demonstrate Delaware’s unwavering commitment to building a vibrant entrepreneurial environment for startups and to providing critically needed facilities grants for them to grow.”In May, the firm raised $14.5 million in a Series A investment round to back the development of its prototype electrolyzer stacks and expand the production of their patented anion exchange membranes. That work will soon transfer to a newly renovated, 12,000-square-foot Stine Building 115 that is expected to be fully operational by 2024. It would increase its physical space by about six times what it currently has at the Innovation Space and is quickly outgrowing.“Delaware has been a hub for innovation for decades. Versogen is the latest success out of Delaware’s Innovation Space and a great example of the collaborative environment we have for economic development in our state,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement touting the homegrown expansion. “We are excited for Versogen’s expansion, bringing new jobs and important technologies to New Castle County.” Versogen has been developing a commercial version of its electrolyzer, which separates hydrogen and oxygen from water, and doesn’t produce a harmful carbon dioxide byproduct. Hydrogen is a widely used gas in industrial industries – and increasingly as transportation fuel – but its production commonly creates harmful greenhouse gasses. The company aims to decarbonize heavy, hard-to-abate industries with its technology by powering the electrolysis with renewable energy from wind or solar farms.Yan, the Henry B. du Pont chair in chemical and biomolecular engineering at UD, founded Versogen, originally known as W7Energy, in 2017 after working for more than 20 years on the development of fuel cell technology.His work on a patented anion-exchange membrane – a cellophane-like material that actually separates the hydrogen and oxygen molecules – has proven to be sought-after throughout industries. Yan explained to the CDF on Monday morning that they’ve been able to scale production of the membrane from 50 grams a batch to 5 kilograms to meet that burgeoning demand.After several years of largely producing the membrane for customers, however, Versogen is increasingly turning toward building its own electrolyzer stacks. It aims to complete its electrolyzer stack unit prototype in 2024, when it would then test its efficiency, and if successful, seek to raise a Series B round to begin manufacturing of additional units.“In the next three years, we have an aggressive growth plan to scale up the polymer synthesis from 5 kilogram per batch to 40 kilograms per batch. And we're going to move the electrolyzer stack from a 50-square-centimeter, single-cell to 1-megawatt stack prototype,” Yan said, noting revenue on its polymer membrane alone is anticipated to grow by more than 200%.