Research & Innovation

Pioneering Work in Mechanochemistry

Material Synthesis at Room Temperature and Ambient Pressure with High-Energy Grinding Processes

21.12.2023 - Özgül Agbaba, a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Ferdi Schüth's Department of Heterogeneous Catalysis at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim an der Ruhr, has a plan. The young scientist is in the process of setting up her own start-up.

MechSyn - as it is called - synthesizes high-performance materials using mechanochemistry. Together with industrial partners, Agbaba and her founding partner Christian Bürger want to develop methods to convert chemical processes previously based on fossil fuels into electrically driven mechanochemical processes. In CHEManager, they explain the concept as well as their plans and goals.

CHEManager: What was your motivation to found your own company?

Özgül Agbaba: For some time, I have been contemplating the idea of setting up a company based on our group's research results. To initiate this venture, I encouraged my friends who are distinguished scientists for a discussion on the commercialization of our research. I then pursued this project independently and with the tireless support and guidance of the director of our department, Ferdi Schüth. After a thorough evaluation, we came to the conclusion that mechanochemistry was the best way to bring our lab work to market. I was fortunate to bring together a team of individuals who share the vision and passion for the mission of MechSyn.

What is special about your mechanochemistry method?

Ö. Agbaba: MechSyn revolutionizes materials production with an eco-friendly approach, contributing to a greener, as well as a more resource-independent and cost-effective industrial landscape. Unlike traditional methods, which heavily rely on thermal and wet chemical processes, MechSyn employs mechanochemistry to produce high-performance materials. The conventional processes do not only consume resources but can also generate toxic waste and hazardous emissions. In contrast, MechSyn uses a sustainable solid-state synthesis method, based solely on input of – ideally renewable - electrical energy and eliminating the need for solvents entirely. Materials produced through mechanochemistry do not only often surpass existing alternatives in performance, but also excel in terms of environmental friendliness and cost-effectiveness. Furthermore, these are patented processes, which are available for the use of MechSyn.

Where do you currently stand in terms of company foundation and process development?

Ö. Agbaba: The company is in the pre-incorporation phase, where the priority is to scale up the processes for manufacturing the high-performance materials in our current product portfolio, such as high surface area -alumina as catalyst or catalyst support, and to expand corporate partnerships. Formal incorporation should take place no later than 2025.

We are pleased that there is already considerable industry interest in the technology and products developed to date. The first major chemical producers have already recognized the enormous potential of our technology and have entered into early adopter collaborations with us.

Where do you find support in the start-up preparation phase?

Ö. Agbaba: We have received the most important support from our director Ferdi Schüth, the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (MPI KOFO) and the team of Max-Planck-Innovation. We also have the support from alumni of our group who have built a solid professional network and continue to collaborate with each other. For example, we are pleased to work with Wolfram Stichert, who is one of the co-founders of the company hte and has kindly accepted the invitation to join our scientific advisory team.

What hurdles do you still have to overcome?

Ö. Agbaba: In the chemical field, significant start-up investments are typical obstacles. These initial investments often reach several million euros, especially when establishing production capabilities for meeting immediate demand in industrial quantities. However, owing to the need for new, energy-efficient processes, the innovative nature of our materials and methods, and the exceedingly positive market response we have received, our confidence is high.

What are the next plans?

Christian Bürger:

Recently we have applied for EXIST-funding, which will allow us to work on the scale-up studies and fund the company to further build up relationships with customers. Our focus will be on scaling our synthesis procedures to an industrial level within a few years. After that, we will initiate the process of setting up our own production facility. We have a vision to expand our reach beyond Europe to global markets. We want to achieve this not only by selling our mechanochemically produced high-performance materials, but also by developing mechanochemical production processes in cooperation with partner companies. In tandem with these efforts, we are actively seeking to cultivate new partnerships with manufacturers, suppliers, and other valuable collaborators.

CM   Business Idea


Boosting Environmental Sustainability

MechSyn specializes in producing high-performance materials for the chemical, energy, and automotive industries. The team is pioneering electrically driven mechanochemical processes to replace fossil-fuelled ones, conducting material synthesis at room temperature and ambient pressure without the use of solvents. The patented milling processes and specialized products help customers to cut costs and reduce environmental impact.

MechSyn's business model is built on three key pillars:

  1. Product Sales: The primary source of revenue comes from innovative products, which offer significant advantages over existing alternatives.
  2. Development Projects: The team focuses on projects aimed at transforming traditional thermochemical processes into environmentally friendly, electrically driven, solvent-free alternatives. These projects involve collaborations or in-house initiatives.
  3. Generating and Licensing own IPs: MechSyn invests in research to create novel products and processes, thus generating licensable intellectual property.

Mechanochemistry is a technique that has been around for a long time. However, only recently it gained attraction with the emergence of advanced high-energy ball mills. By leveraging different types of ball mills, MechSyn aims to synthesize and sell the following high-performance materials:

  • α-Al2O3 with a surface area of > 120 m2/g
  • Supported catalysts
  • Supported or non-supported alloys (including hardly accessible alloys)
  • Transition metal carbides/nitrides/borides

Some of these materials do not currently exist on the market because it has not been possible to synthesize them by other means, or the traditional methods for making them have limitations, with solvent-based processes generating massive waste and consuming substantial amounts of energy. Through research collaborations, MechSyn has stayed connected to industries that use these materials.

MechSyn     MechSyn, c/o Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim an der Ruhr

CM   Elevator Pitch


Transformative Journey into the Future

MechSyn aims to create cutting-edge, high-performance materials using the science of mechanochemistry and to explore this evolving field through continuous research and discovery.

MechSyn's official launch as a company is anticipated no later than 2025, following successful scale-up studies and real-world application testing of our primary products. The founders’ journey has been marked by successful scale-up studies and field tests of the core products. Collaborating with project partners on development initiatives brings us closer to realizing industrial potential, and technological innovations promise to make significant contributions.

With their solution portfolio, the founders believe in the potential to actively contribute to the seventeen global UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and are committed to collaborate and grow together with their customers and service providers. The technology of mechanochemistry is enormous, and MechSyn's offerings hold the potential to make a significant impact on achieving global sustainability objectives.


2023 and before

  • Proof of concept in lab scale for materials production
  • One process patented, patents for two other processes filed
  • Initiation of scale-up studies
  • Provision of samples to prospective customers for testing



  • Participation in the ‘From Lab to Market Challenge‘ by Chemstars.NRW
  • Application for EXIST-Forschungstransfer



  • Completion of scale-up studies
  • Performance of trials by customers/partners
  • Testing of pilot plant
  • Expansion of product portfolio


  • Initiation of development projects with companies
  • Official foundation of the company
  • General market entry into core markets
  • Expansion of corporate brand
  • Application for further funding


Zur Person

Özgül Agbaba   Özgül Agbaba, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (MPI KOFO) under the supervision of professor Ferdi Schüth, has a diverse academic background in functional materials synthesis, reaction engineering and design of complex reaction setups. Her academic journey has taken her through Turkey, Finland, the Netherlands and Germany. With more than six years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, she is well acquainted with industrial requirements and daily challenges in the industry.

Zur Person

Christian Bürger   Christian Bürger has been involved in the development of business models for industrial companies as an entrepreneur and consultant for several years. From 2016 to 2020, he was Managing Director of Chembid. At the beginning of his professional career, he worked in Business Development and Sales for Mitsubishi Electric and ThyssenKrupp. He studied Sales Engineering and Product Management at Ruhr-University of Bochum, and the Executive Management Program at the MIT Sloan School of Management.



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