Milwaukee-based startup Advanced Ionics, Inc., a manufacturer of electrolyzers, has closed a $4.2 million funding round led by Boston-based Clean Energy Ventures.SWAN Impact Networkof Dripping Springs, Texas also took part in the funding round.
The company’s electrolyzers use low-cost renewables or nuclear energy to produce green hydrogen for less that the current cost of fossil fuel-derived hydrogen. Advanced Ionics says it can produce green hydrogen for less than $1/kg. The $4.2 million in funding will be used to implement several pilot projects with customers and to accelerate the company’s product development.
Chad Mason, founder and CEO of Advanced Ionics, knew from a young age the importance of decarbonization. He grew up on a family farm in central North Dakota, where he first observed large energy usage.
“It’s very energy intensive – farming – and it’s one of the places where hydrogen is utilized. There’s hydrogen in ammonia, which goes into fertilizer in the fields, and hydrogen was in fuels and the chemicals we used, so even in the late ‘90s, at an early age, I already understood the need for sustainability in hydrogen,” Mason said.
After pursuing a degree in engineering, he started working in electro-chemistry, particularly with hydrogen fuel cells.
In 2017, he came to the realization that no one seemed to be doing much in terms of decarbonization within industrial companies. That’s when Advanced Ionics first launched, later moving to Milwaukee in 2018 due in part to the WERCBench Labs Accelerator.
“Green hydrogen is basically hydrogen that’s produced through electrolysis. Generally, what’s inferred is through electrolysis, you are using renewable electricity through that process,” Mason said. “All electrolyzers use green hydrogen and we are an electrolyzer company.”
Advanced Ionics is focused on tackling the decarbonization of heavy industry, one of the most carbon-intensive sectors responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Products including ammonia and other energy intensive chemicals, steel and machinery, fuels and oils are all targets.
“When you look around the room, most of the things you see have had hydrogen used in their production,” Mason said.
Advanced Ionics also provides a sustainable, low-cost alternative amid the need to reduce reliance on natural gas for climate and geopolitical reasons.
Advanced Ionics’ symbiotic electrolyzer technology reduces costs by integrating with industrial facilities and pre-existing industrial processes. Power-intensive alkaline and membrane-based electrolyzers require high electricity usage. Advanced Ionics says its electrolyzers work with onsite waste and process heat supplies, reducing up to 40% of the typical electricity requirement, the dominant cost driver of green hydrogen production.
The company will launch several pilot projects at the start of 2023. So far, Mason said his team has secured partnerships with companies that produce ammonia, petrochemicals, and metals, but he declined to name the companies at this point in time.
Aside from a $20,000 grant received through the WERCBench Labs Accelerator, the company had been bootstrapping until the close of this first funding round.
Mason leads a team of 13 people out of the Century City Tower building at 4201 N. 27th St., Milwaukee. He hopes to triple his number of employees by the end of 2023. A larger manufacturing facility to serve North America and European markets is also a goal in the coming months.
“We don’t think there will be a compromise (to green hydrogen) in the near future,” Mason said.