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Unearthly Materials claimed to have big-name investors, but they weren’t all on board

Startup says it’s on the verge of a breakthrough in superconductors despite questionable science

Since they were discovered over 100 years ago, superconductors seemed a bit magical.

You may have seen one on YouTube, levitating above a pool of liquid nitrogen, shrouded in steam as the superchilled seventh element boils. Or maybe you’ve been inside a much larger one that’s been cooled by liquid helium, generating huge magnetic and radio waves that allowed doctors to look inside your body as part of an MRI.

Even with their tricky temperature requirements, superconductors have become key players in science, medicine and technology. So you can imagine the excitement when earlier this month a team of scientists led by Ranga Dias, a professor at the University of Rochester in New York, claimed in a paper that they had created a room temperature superconductor. , which exhibits the same magical properties at 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact.

If the claims are true and if scientists are able to refine the product further, it could become a truly transformative technology. Fusion reactors, which rely on superconducting magnets to confine burning plasma, would become smaller and cheaper. The power grid would need to be transformed, as lossless superconductors would make transcontinental power lines a reality. Maglev trains could stop being the butt of jokes and become a real alternative to air transport.

To capitalize on their research, Dias and co-author Ashkan Salamat founded a company called Unearthly Materials.

I recently came across a YouTube recording of a virtual talk Dias gave to a Sri Lankan scientific society and university in which he claimed to have raised a $1m seed round and a $20m Series A dollars for supernatural materials.

In his presentation, Dias also claimed to have prominent investors. The $1 million round included Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures, Daniel Ek of Spotify, Dolby President Peter Gotcher and Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus. Series A included Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Open AI’s Sam Altman; Ek and Hinrikus followed.

Although its website is empty and LinkedIn only lists six employees, Unearthly Materials isn’t exactly a secret. But at the same time, the company is not tracked on PitchBook and does not appear on Crunchbase. It’s unusual for a widely publicized startup to raise $20 million without writing a blog post or issuing a press release.

Holy Grail of Materials Science

techcrunch Gt

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