Made in Insti: ChemCat

Design by Harshavardhan

Here’s another addition to the list of innovative ventures, a Nirmaan pre-incubated startup called ChemCat. It started as Mr Prabaharan Thiruvengetam’s PhD research project, which later manifested into a startup. ChemCat is a deep-tech startup that synthesizes catalysts to perform organic reactions in water rather than using organic solvents. This shift of reaction medium reduces the environmental impact of the reactions. 

Mr Prabaharan Thiruvengetam, a PhD graduate from the Department of Chemistry at IIT Madras hails from Tamil Nadu. Before coming to IITM, he pursued his M.Sc in a reputed college in Tamil Nadu and worked as a project assistant at Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CSIR-CECRI). In insti, one of his projects got selected for the Student Innovative Project and got funded by ICSR-IITM. The same project went on to become ChemCat. 

ChemCat partakes in three primary activities:

  1. The production of catalysts for various types of organic reactions which can be used by the pharmaceutical industry.
  2. The production of biomolecules from feedstock. The numerous molecules that are created as part of the biomolecules can be employed as biofuels or as starting materials for chemical processes.
  3. Separation and conversion of the waste material from oil refining into useful products.

The last point helps ChemCat find industrial partners and exposure. ChemCat in collaboration with HPCL is working on converting alkyl arenes, a harmful waste product of oil refining into useful starting material. 

According to him, the scarcity of the conventionally recognized raw material for a process shouldn’t arbitrarily dictate its feasibility. One should instead explore new products to manufacture or use alternative feedstocks for the processes.

Prabaharan states that the environmentally sustainable methods that ChemCat uses lie well within the limits defined by government sustainability policies that are imposed on manufacturing industries. For example, the government allows for 10% waste production but ChemCat claims 0% waste production.

He also expressed his gratitude to both the institute and Nirmaan (the pre-incubation cell at IITM). Coming from a pure science background with no business experience, Nirmaan helped him find business opportunities, commercialize and market the ChemCat products. From time to time he received mentorship services through Nirmaan which helped him in the initial stages of ChemCat.


Solvent: The substance that dissolves a solute. For example, water (solvent) dissolves salt (solute).

Catalyst: A substance that facilitates a chemical reaction without getting exhausted in the process. Introduction of a catalyst reduces the energy barrier required for the reaction and thus, makes it easier for the reaction to take place.

Biomolecules: Substances produced by living organisms. They include carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids.

Alkyl Arenes: A linear or branched chain attached to an aromatic ring.

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