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ANU/UNSW Startup Company sells for $76 Million

March 2014

Lithicon + FEI

Lithicon AS, a company started by researchers at the Australian National University and UNSW, has been sold for $76 million (US$68 million) to the US-based FEI Company. The ANFF has supported the long time research effort that has led to the development of Lithicon AS.

In 2009, researchers at ANU and UNSW set up a company called Digitalcore, which merged with Norwegian company Numerical Rocks AS in 2013 to form Lithicon AS. Their research developed advanced computational and high-resolution 3D imaging techniques that solve fluid behaviour calculations in mineral core samples. Working with some of the world’s biggest resources companies they have developed techniques that generate critical information needed to determine the best way to extract oil and gas.

ANFF has supported their research at the ACT Node. Working with node’s focused ion beam (FIB) system and expert staff the Lithicon team have developed a high resolution 3D imaging technique for mineral core samples with features too small to be imaged via their alternative method, X-ray CT scanning. The technique uses a focussed gallium ion beam to mill a small hole in the sample. Using the scanning electron beam integrated into the FIB system, the edge of this hole can be imaged. Images of subsequent slices milled from the edge of this hole can be combined to create a single 3D image with nanometre resolution.

Victor Pantano

“Together with ANFF, we have been leading the application of these (FIB) systems on rock samples to produce nanoscale 3D images of tight unconventional geological systems such as shales and tight gas” said Dr Victor Pantano, General Manager of Lithicon AS. “This work is important as these geological samples cannot be analysed using traditional means, and thus the work with the ANFF provides a means of characterising these increasingly important oil and gas bearing formations."

Today, Lithicon AS employs 18 people in Canberra and markets its services to resource companies around the world. The merger will allow the group to further develop its research in the field, which will remain headquartered in Canberra. ANFF would like to congratulate Lithicon AS on reaching this very significant milestone, and looks forward to supporting their future R&D efforts in strengthening their position as world leaders in digital core scanning and analysis.

Dr Victor Pantano - General Manager, Lithicon AS

Further reading available from these links:

ANU - $76 million startup sale
FEI - FEI Buys Digital Rock Solutions Provider
Sydney Morning Herald - ANU tech start-up sells for $76 million

Story courtesy of Dr Warren McKenzie, ANFF Business Development Manager