[Interview] How Samsung C-Lab Outside’s Startups Are Innovating Green TechnologyShare open/close
Climate change remains an ongoing threat to current and future generations. This summer, experts predict that the planet may experience “super El Niño” — a phenomenon in which the eastern Pacific Ocean’s temperature rises due to global warming and heightens the possibility of extreme weather events around the world, such as unprecedented heat waves, heavy rain, droughts and more.
Eco-conscious startups believe that groundbreaking, innovative technologies and solutions have the power to combat climate change and create positive outcomes.
Samsung Electronics announced a new environmental strategy in September 2022 to contribute to tackling climate change in partnership with the startup community, which includes identifying and supporting startups that have innovative eco-conscious technologies. As such, Samsung expanded the scope of its environmental support in the fifth C-Lab Outside, the company’s external startup acceleration program, to continue fostering and discovering excellent companies creating sustainable technologies.
In celebration of World Environment Day on June 5, Samsung Newsroom spoke with two startups from the fifth C-Lab Outside program that showcased meaningful technological climate solutions: QuantumCat and 60 Hertz.
The World’s First Organization To Succeed in Commercialization of Gold Nanocatalyst
QuantumCat was established in August 2019 with the vision of “ensuring a sustainable future for Earth and mankind.” The company became the first in the world to successfully commercialize the gold nanocatalyst with its unique, innovative technology. This raises the question — how are catalysts1 related to the climate crisis?
When exhaust gases from sources such as cars and factory smokestacks cause incomplete combustion to occur, toxic substances including carbon monoxide are produced. For spontaneous oxidation of carbon monoxide to occur, a high temperature of over 600 degrees Celsius (1112 degrees Fahrenheit) is necessary. However, the temperature for oxidation can be brought down to 250 degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit) when platinum catalysts, such as rhodium, palladium and platinum, are used. In short, using catalysts reduces energy consumption for the complete oxidation of toxic substances such as carbon monoxide while also effectively preventing the release of harmful gases.
More than 90% of the world’s chemical processes are controlled by catalysts which are also used to purify exhaust gases emitted from cars and at worksites. In addition, more catalysts are expected to be used as carbon neutrality legislation continues to be enacted and environmental regulations become stricter around the world. As such, catalysts have emerged as a crucial material necessary in responding to climate change.
QuantumCat’s gold nanocatalyst is even more groundbreaking than platinum catalysts. While platinum catalysts can accomplish the complete oxidation of toxic substances such as carbon monoxide at 250 degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit), the gold nanocatalyst can enable the complete oxidation of carbon monoxide at room temperature (25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit). QuantumCat’s technology has significantly reduced energy consumption by lowering the combustion temperature and reducing carbon emissions. As a result, the company has earned cumulative investments of KRW 6 billion (about USD 4.5 million) and widespread recognition from various organizations, including the Ministry of Science and ICT’s commendation, Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute’s Presidential Award, the Innovation Start-up Korea Award and more.
“Using the gold nanocatalyst means lower energy consumption, making it an economically viable and environmentally friendly solution,” said CEO Shinhyun Kang of QuantumCat.
Developing the Revolutionary Gold Nanocatalyst
Kang developed the gold nanocatalyst technology while researching nanomaterials as a doctoral student at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). While gold is an excellent catalyst, the element has not been commercialized until now because it is less stable, as the catalyst particles tend to clump together. To prevent this from occurring, Kang successfully developed the “nanocage,” in which gold is broken down into nanoparticles and locked in.
QuantumCat’s gold nanocatalyst can also be used for air purifier products as it can remove harmful substances such as carbon monoxide at room temperature or purify the air through selective oxidation.
Recently, the company established a process for mass production of the gold nanocatalyst, along with continuous efforts to improve the quality.
“The gold nanocatalyst will stand out in the global market when production technology is expanded,” said Kang. “Through Samsung C-Lab Outside, we hope our technology will evolve to be applied in diverse use cases and contribute to solving environmental issues.”
QuantumCat’s mission is to ensure a sustainable future for Earth through innovative technologies that address climate change. Samsung eagerly awaits continued advancements surrounding the commercialization of the gold nanocatalyst and how QuantumCat will benefit the Earth’s health in the long run.
Innovative Technology for Predicting Renewable Energy Generation
More organizations and governments have set their sights on the transition to renewable energy.2 However, the amount of renewable energy generated from sources such as solar and wind is highly variable since weather conditions are difficult to predict. As such, determining the exact amount of energy supply is critical in operating a stable power grid.
60 Hertz is actively researching ways to solve climate issues and protect the Earth with software based on renewable energy generation prediction technology. “Our power grid can operate securely when the supply and demand of electricity are balanced,” said CEO Jongkyu Kim of 60 Hertz. “If it’s unbalanced, it can lead to problems with home appliances and to more severe disasters such as blackouts. So, technology to predict the energy produced from small-scale distributed generation, such as renewable energy, is critical.” When the supply and demand of electricity are in equilibrium, Korea’s power grid maintains a stable frequency of 60 hertz (Hz) — finding this balance is also the mission of the eponymous startup.
The transition to renewable energy is vital to solving the climate crisis. For renewable energy to become a primary energy source, a virtual power plant software that uses IT to connect and manage small-scale distributed generation can serve as an important tool in accurately predicting the current and future amount of renewable energy. Currently, renewable energy in Korea is generated across the nation in the form of tens of thousands of small-scale distributed generation power plants. Since the amount of power generated is dependent on weather, renewable energy plant management software with virtual power plant technology is required to operate stable power grids. With such technology, 60 Hertz operates the Sunlight Wind Map service, forecasting the amount of energy generated from renewable energy power plants throughout Korea for free. In 2021, the Sunlight Wind Map demonstrated its high value as a climate crisis tool through numerous awards, including the Presidential Award, the Prime Minister Award, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy Award as well as the Ministry of SMEs and Startups Award.
Pushing the Transition to Renewable Energy Further
60 Hertz’s innovative business strategy has proven that this model can be easily adopted by any company seeking to implement distributed generation, such as renewable energy, into its operations.
One such company utilizing this business model is 60 Hertz’s EnergyScrum — an energy management platform that comprehensively manages various distributed generation modes, such as photo voltaic and electric vehicle (EV) chargers and energy storage systems (ESS). In recognition of this innovative software, the company was named a CES 2023 Innovation Award honoree in the Sustainability, Eco-Design & Smart Energy category. “EnergyScrum provides various management features, including the prediction of energy supply and demand using AI technology,” explained Kim. “For example, it predicts the amount of energy generated from a solar voltaic power generator installed at a gas station as well as the amount of demand at an EV charging station to help with comprehensive supply and demand management.”
“60 Hertz will efficiently expand renewable energy implementation and usage with our technology,” said Kim. “Through Samsung C-Lab Outside, we will continue to take on challenges and be a leader in solving the global climate crisis with our technology in Korea and abroad.”
With 60 Hertz’s advancements to save the Earth, Samsung looks forward to the day when everyone can easily contribute to the transition to renewable energy.
1 A material that catalyzes reactions by lowering the activation energy of other materials.
2 The shift from utilizing fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, to renewable sources, such as wind and solar.