19-Feb-2021 - siloxene AG

"Crispr/Cas" for the chemical industry

New Empa spin-off

After a successful career in research at Empa, Matthias Koebel has now ventured into the private sector and founded the start-up Siloxene. The young entrepreneur has a construction kit filled with a miracle material, a lot of know-how and – despite the general mood of crisis – a refreshing optimism.

What Matthias Koebel is offering in his portfolio sounds almost like the Crispr/Cas genetic scissors, which were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and can be used to specifically cure genetic diseases. Only for the chemical industry: a multifunctional material component that improves the properties of adhesives, coatings or fillers, depending on the product and customer requirements.

Strictly speaking, this component is a silicon-based, molecular hybrid building material that is only about one nanometer in size. If used correctly, this "tentacle molecule" can specifically improve the properties of certain substances. For example, coatings can become more scratch-resistant, adhesives can have better adhesion or shorter curing times, or fillers can interact more specifically with a resin matrix. With this "multifunctional Lego building block" in his pocket, as Koebel calls it, the researcher recently founded the start-up Siloxene AG. Koebel discovered and investigated the component during his time as a scientist and head of Empa's "Building Energy Materials and Components" lab.

Knowhow, technology and a lot of verve

Besides the raw material, i.e. the macromolecule, he also received the second important component that forms the Siloxene portfolio from Empa: the know-how that is essential in the development of complex chemical products. Siloxene focuses on companies in the plastics processing, adhesives or sealants manufacturing, and building materials industries. "Here, the regulatory hurdles are not as high and we can work with companies to optimize their products and processes relatively easily," Koebel explains. Behind the formulation of an adhesive, for example, there are precisely coordinated mixtures of different chemical substances whose interaction must be understood in order to then make a targeted change.

At the moment, he and his four-person team are already working with various companies on new developments. In such a process, the corporate customers primarily work on their own product formulation, while Siloxene provides technological advice, i.e. how the macromolecule can best be used in a specific case, and makes it available as a raw material. Depending on the need and application, this is also adapted. "For industrial companies, especially in the current crisis, there is an opportunity to invest in research and development, to develop and improve products. We are greatly benefiting from this," says Koebel.

Own production in mind

In general, there is little sense of crisis when you talk to Koebel. The financing for a good start has been secured, he says. Koebel can now concentrate on building up his own research and development department and acquiring more corporate customers. In addition, the energetic neo-entrepreneur already has a vision for the next five years: "At the beginning, we will probably have our macromolecule produced by a contract manufacturer. In the long term, however, I would like to set up our own production. I'm an optimist by nature and always look ahead and keep going, no matter what."

More about Empa
  • News

    When damaged ropes change color

    High-performance fibres that have been exposed to high temperatures usually lose their mechanical properties undetected and, in the worst case, can tear precisely when lives depend on them. For example, safety ropes used by fire brigades or suspension ropes for heavy loads on construction s ... more

    Turning streetwear into solar power plants

    Empa researchers succeeded in developing a material that works like a luminescent solar concentrator and can even be applied to textiles. This opens up numerous possibilities for producing energy directly where it is needed, i.e. in the use of everyday electronics. Our hunger for energy is ... more

    The Transistor out of the Printer

    Empa researchers are working on electronics that come out of printers. This makes it possible to produce the circuits on all sorts of substrates, such as paper or plastic film – but there are still some hurdles to overcome. Imagine being able to easily print electronics on any surface. Toda ... more

  • Videos

    A water-based, rechargeable battery

    First step to produce a cheap aquous electrolyte for powerful rechargeable batteries: Seven grams of sodium FSI (precise name: sodium bis(fluorosulfonyl)imide) and one gram of water produce a clear saline solution with an electrochemical stability of up to 2.6 volts – twice as much as other ... more