NZ hydrogen startup claims it’s ‘cracked the iridium problem,’ raises $2.3m in seed round


The New Zealand startup, named Bspkl, claims it has already manufactured its catalyst coated membrane products, a component of hydrogen electrolysers, at a commercial scale. Now, with funding from the seed round, the company is hoping to fully commercialise its product over the coming year.

Precious metals like iridium and platinum are typically used in hydrogen electrolyser membranes to maximise output – an expensive and resource-intensive practice. Bspkl says its technology cuts the amount of iridium and platinum needed for electrolysis by 25x, stating loading levels of 0.089 mg/cm2 of iridium and 0.122 mg/cm2 for platinum group metal catalysts.

“We’ve cracked the iridium problem and we know how to manufacture it at scale, we are excited to bring this product to the electrolyser manufacturing market,” Bspkl cofounder and CEO, Christina Houlihan, said.

The startup is a spinout from crown research institute GNS Science. The technology was invented by Jérôme Leveneur while he was an employee at GNS and has reportedly been in development for nearly 10 years.

Leveneur is now Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Bspkl – which will continue to collaborate and conduct research with GNS Science as it commercialises. 

According to Bspkl’s website, its technology is both catalyst and membrane “agnostic” and can be applied as a catalyst layer to any membrane material, “so long as it comes in a dry, roll format.”

The startup is currently focusing on polymer electrolyte membrane (PEMelectrolysis, though it says it plans to expand into anion exchange membrane (AEM) electrolysis, hydrogen fuel cells and other related technologies “in the near future.”

Bspkl’s recent seed funding round was led by New Zealand technology investor WNT Ventures and supported by Australian venture capital firm Investible. It also attracted a NZD 750,000 ($690,000) repayable grant from Callaghan Innovation’s Technology Incubator Program.

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