NanoPattern raises $1.5 million in seed round to expand quantum dot ink production

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NanoPattern CEO Yu Kambe, PhD ’19.

NanoPattern Technologies has raised $1.5 million in a seed round to expand its photopatternable quantum dot inks to commercialize next-generation displays.

Co-founded by Yu Kambe, Ph.D. ’19, and Dmitri Talapin, the Ernest DeWitt Burton Distinguished Service Professor in the University of Chicago Department of Chemistry and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), NanoPattern’s ink products are sold to display component manufacturers for complete of manufacturing.

The latest round of funding follows a series of investments over the past few years, including a $150,000 investment in 2021 from the Polsky Center’s George Shultz Innovation Fund.

The startup participates in the Polsky Accelerator, the I-Corps program and Argonne National Laboratory’s Chain Reaction Innovation Program, and has also received the first phase of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program. and Phase 2 funding — without which Kambe says the startup wouldn’t be in its current position: “It advances the work needed to demonstrate quantum dot ink.”

With Phase 2 funding (nearly $1 million), the team was able to publicly demonstrate sub-10 micron pixel resolution and reliability. It was made possible in partnership with Nanosys Shoei, the world’s largest manufacturer of quantum dots.

“These quantum dots are an important part of our ink and are a public good. It has been scaled,” Kambe explained. “From that perspective, I think being able to prove the process using commercial products avoids a lot of the risk.”

This de-risking and demonstration of key functionality provides the opportunity to attract new customers and raise the capital needed for follow-up steps. Specifically, Kambe said they will use the funding to transition from showcasing the product to showcasing product-specific features. In addition to hiring contract manufacturers to produce larger quantities of links, the team will also consolidate quantity controls as well as manufacturing and engineering controls.

As part of this, they have also begun to expand their network, including participation in the Luminate accelerator. “We deepened our relationships with chemical and display companies,” Kambe said. “The seeds of success themselves are a great testament to the work we do.”

The resolution now extends beyond dust, and some work must transition to a clean room environment. Kambe noted that moving to commercial and government clean rooms is an important part of raising capital.

“Cleanrooms are notoriously difficult to maintain, so having multiple cleanrooms within driving distance is not something you see in many places,” he explained of the advantages of the Chicago-area ecosystem.

“Since 2021, we have seen a significant increase in financing opportunities, real estate, and resources that are difficult to obtain elsewhere, including clean rooms and employees,” he said.

NanoPattern is currently recruiting senior engineers in Chicago and plans to grow the team from the current seven to nine.

“Looking at all the great universities in the region, we’ve been able to hire a lot of people locally,” Kambe said. He noted that this funding round “really proves that you can raise money in the Midwest.” The startup Will make this again soon.

“We want to attract more great talent to the Midwest, and we certainly hope to see similar performance in our next financing in Illinois and the Midwest,” he added. “Chicago and Illinois are building a culture to really make physical science startups work — and I’m very grateful for that.”

This round of financing was led by Queen City Angels. Other major investors include St. Louis Arch Angels, Angel Star Ventures, NextCorps and part of the Illinois Innovation Venture Fund (INVENT) program.

As part of this financing, NanoPattern has also added three new board members: Homer Antoniadis, Sujatha Ramanujan and Theodore (Ted) Capossela.

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