InterviewSiGNa to expand alkali metals in India

03 July 2008 17:28  [Source: ICIS news]

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--Start-up advanced materials company SiGNa Chemistry plans to build a manufacturing facility in India for its nano-encapsulated alkali metals, the CEO said on Thursday.

 “Demand for our proprietary materials has been growing. And for a small company such as ours, we have to manufacture in the lowest-cost fashion possible to be able to service our customers worldwide in all avenues,” CEO Michael Lefenfeld said in an interview with ICIS.

The four-year-old, New York City-based company was able to develop stable alkali metals in powder form by ionising the metals inside of a porous oxide using silica gel or alumina. Alkali metals in normal conditions usually explode or catch fire in open air and in water, Lefenfeld said.

 “SiGNa’s technology got rid of the dangers of handling these reactive metals,” he said. “Our materials drive improvements in safety, efficiency and environmental sustainability, as well as lower production costs across chemical processes in the pharmaceutical, petrochemical and general synthesis industries.”

The company’s materials are currently being toll manufactured in the US state of Tennessee. Lefenfeld said the facility has the ability to process over 1 tonne/day.

He added that similar capacity is being planned for the Indian facility, with SiGNa currently in discussion with a European-based partner for the materials’ manufacture.

The pharmaceutical industry, which is plagued by expensive processes, offers the greatest opportunity for SiGNa in the short term, said Paul Vogt, SiGNa’s vice president of process development service.

Alkali metals are used in the early stages of drug development but are not used in actual production due to their volatility, he said.

“With SiGNa materials, there is no need to replace the use of alkali metals, which would lower the development and production costs,” he added.

Aside from drug development, other potential applications the company is working on include hydrogen energy production, environmental remediation and petroleum refining.

SiGNa marketed a total of 150 kg of materials last year and expects to reach 500-3,000 kg this year. Most of the materials marketed range from stage-one development to mid-stage commercialisation, Lefenfeld said.

 “We are not profitable right now but what we plan is to build as many customer sources and to avail ourselves as a solid growing company,” he added.

Bookmark Malini Hariharan’s India Chemicals for some independent views on India’s pharmaceutical market.
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By: Doris de Guzman
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