Quantum technology is an emerging field of physics and engineering and kiutra is using this technology to provide easy-to-use and cost-efficient cooling solutions for research laboratories. Its solution permanently creates very low temperatures through continuous magnetic refrigeration, a technique initially developed for space missions. An interview with kiutra CEO and co-founder Dr Alexander Regnat.
What problem is kiutra solving for its customers?
Working with very low temperatures is a complex, cumbersome, and time-consuming task, requiring limited and expensive liquefied gases, notably helium-3. We provide our customers with easy to use and scalable cooling solutions – firstly, to facilitate and accelerate their work and, secondly, to enable commercial low-temperature applications independent of the supply of rare liquefied gases.
Can you explain how space technology is relevant for your product?
Our products use magnetic cooling and this technology, particularly continuous magnetic refrigeration, which permanently creates very low temperatures, was initially developed for space missions because it also works reliably at reduced gravity. kiutra brings this method to ground-based use cases, for example, in applied quantum technology.
What other use case could you envision for your cryostat cooling solutions in the future?
Our focus today is on fast and easy-to-use cryostats for the characterisation and quality assurance of scientific samples, electronic components and quantum devices. In the future, we envision integrated cryogenic solutions to enable compact, full-stack setups for quantum computing, quantum communication and quantum sensing.
You were working on this technology as research physicists at university before. What made you realise that your research should be turned into a startup?
As researchers, my colleagues and I worked with low-temperature cryostats for many years and, like many of the customers we have today, we realised how time-consuming and cumbersome this can be with the readily available hardware. At some point, we started to work with magnetic refrigeration and realised how much easier these devices were to use. For instance, you don’t need to refill liquid helium or liquid nitrogen every couple of days to be able to continue with your daily work. After getting feedback from many colleagues and groups working in this area, we decided to take a closer look, in particular, at continuous magnetic refrigeration, and then started to develop our own devices and prototypes.
Your product sounds rather complicated – what was your experience in communicating your idea and winning over supporters?
We are fortunate that our supporters perhaps fall into two groups who are happy to engage with the complexity of the subject: interested experts, and enthusiastic tech investors willing to deep-dive into such a complex physics-based technology and product and support us on our journey. We also approached the design of our products and infographics holistically, to communicate our vision and technology to all audiences.
Where did you initially see the biggest risk of failure for your venture and how did you overcome it?
There are two big risks. One is the technical complexity of such a completely new product. We tried to tackle this by doing a lot of basic research and early prototyping when we were at the university and also in the first few years after incorporating the company. At that time, we benefitted a lot from public funding, including the support from ESA BIC, in order to further develop and improve the core technology and product.
The second big risk, of course, is that, as a hardware and deep tech startup, we need a lot of money for our development and to go to market – it is not always easy to secure the financing to allow all this development to become a successful company. We tackled this by leveraging public funding and seeking experienced early-stage investors who were comfortable with more complex hardware-related business cases.
Germany has been investing in promising research in quantum technology for a few years. What do you expect for the future of quantum technology and where do you position kiutra in this development?
Quantum technology will become a key technology, not just in Germany and Europe but globally, that is required for many industries and a prerequisite for the economic success of most tech-based companies. For kiutra, this means that we expect this to become a very important, emerging and quickly growing market. We see ourselves as a company that provides the enabling technology – the cooling backbone for all sorts of quantum technology platforms, both for the research and development of these novel technologies, as well as for their operation and commercial application.
If you could get the answer to one question of any kind, what would the question be?
How can we successfully get to quantum gravity – a unified theory of quantum and relativistic physics?