March 25, 2011 in ATDC News

The Startup Chronicles: Syzygy Waxes Poetic

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The nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies such as when the sun, moon, and earth align during a solar or lunar eclipse is known as a syzygy. Interestingly, there is another meaning of the word. Syzygy is also a form of alliteration, where one consonant is used repeatedly throughout a passage, but not necessarily at the beginning of each word.

A Georgia Tech Ti:GER team created a third meaning for the word syzygy when the team began commercializing a platform technology based on a shape memory polymer. This form of plastic can be molecularly designed to adjust to fit into complex shapes at specific temperatures. The team chose the name Syzygy for the company because the technology relies on the combined properties of different repeating units of material. Simply put, some parts of the shape memory polymer get “squishy” above a certain temperature, allowing the material to deform to the shape of whatever is holding it. Once the temperature is lowered again, the parts get “unsquishy” and magically return to their original shape.

Syzygy is perfecting both the ability to dial in properties of the shape memory material and the manufacturing process used to make it. Shape memory plastic has been around for some time, but the ability to manufacture the material on any reasonable scale is new. With $500,000 SBIR Phase II funding, Syzygy is developing mass manufacturing techniques that make production of this super material much more tenable. The company is currently focusing on making earplugs for industrial use, but the manufacturing process being developed will lay a foundation to use shape memory polymers in many applications in consumer products, healthcare, and industry.

The company started in 2007 and has won a string of awards including winning the 2008 Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition Most Fundable Award, Phase I and II SBIR grants, as a Venture Lab company $150,000 in funding from Georgia Research Alliance, and private investments.

Syzygy’s rise from a great idea in the lab to a successful growing company is, in a word, astronomically poetic.

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