Rheom Materials: Enabling Bio-based Innovation

Written by
Emily Cai
Materials Specialist at On

Must read

Mar 1, 2024

Bucha Bio has rebranded to Rheom Materials.

The material science company's rebrand marks its next step in enabling the transition to bio-based materials.

We wanted to use existing manufacturing processes… there's nothing more scalable than plastics manufacturing... everything we use is made [from extrusion processing].– Zimri T. Hinshaw, CEO and Founder

The Evolution of Bucha Bio

Zimri T. Hinshaw, CEO and Founder of Rheom Materials, recalls starting the biomaterials company from his Temple University dorm room in 2019. At the time, the company experimented with using kombucha SCOBY to create a standalone material that could replace leather. The first batches of the new, all-natural material were exciting but came with many drawbacks. The results were difficult to replicate at scale, had inconsistent physical properties, and had a lingering fermentation scent in the finished product. With these first prototypes, the company made its debut as Bucha Bio.

As Bucha Bio continued developing their material, kombucha SCOBY became an increasingly smaller portion of the formula— from the entire material to an essential ingredient to a reinforcing agent. These newer iterations created materials with improved physical properties that were more consistently reproducible. However, there remained setbacks surrounding the scalability of their processes. They had to produce the material in batches, and the kombucha SCOBY proved time-consuming to grow.

When the company moved to Houston in 2022, the local talent pool of chemists and polymer scientists inspired them to solve these scalability issues. Led by Dr. Carolina Amin Ferril, CTO at Rheom Materials, the company pivoted, aligning its material design with existing plastics manufacturing processes— specifically, extruded polymer composite materials. "We wanted to use existing manufacturing processes… there's nothing more scalable than plastics manufacturing," remarked Hinshaw,"Everything we use is made [from extrusion processing]." By shifting the company strategy, the company has created a biomaterial innovation platform that promises a sustainable and scalable solution.

Rheom: Materials with Flow and Form 

With this new shift away from its microbiology roots, Bucha Bio has rebranded to Rheom Materials (pronounced RE-ohm). Rheom Materials' new strategy blends commercially available biopolymers and global melt extrusion technology to create sustainable material solutions. The extruded material can be compounded into biopolymer pellets, melted, and molded into various form factors for different end-uses. The technology can produce components from molded parts to textiles to sheet materials such as SHORAI™—the company's bio-based alternative to leather. These biopolymer pellets replace conventional plastic pellets in traditional plastic manufacturing processes.

Currently, the raw materials Rheom uses come from various bio-based sources, including polymers produced from a bacterial fermentation process, calling back to the company's microbiology roots. Other raw ingredients include biomass extracts, such as celluloses and starches, and chemical additives from plant molecules, such as oils and sugars. Many of these materials derive from sources like trees, crop waste, roots, or algae. All the inputs are bio-based, allowing the resulting products to range from 90-100% bio-based carbon.

Rheom's new strategy will be to supply bio-based materials in a variety of form factors, including pellets, sheets, and fibers, depending on the final application. As a company, they serve as a bridge between raw material suppliers, manufacturers, and consumer goods brands. By working with chemical suppliers to create new applications for their raw materials, manufacturers to repurpose their existing processes, and brands to deliver novel, sustainable solutions, Rheom Materials is the connection point accelerating a sustainable revolution.

Behind the New Branding

The name "Rheom Materials" combines the Greek word "rhéō", meaning "flow" and "form". The name speaks to the company's collaborative process of mixing and melting biopolymers to create new materials through flow and form.  

Developed in partnership with The Branx, the leading branding agency for startups, Rheom Materials' new branding builds around this new name. The new visual identity embodies the harmony between flow and form and highlights the most essential elements of their brand: sustainability and collaboration. It represents Rheom as something new and innovative, created through collaboration with suppliers, manufacturers, and brands.

The harmony between earthy colors, smooth shapes, and clean lines evokes a balance between biotechnology, innovation, and approachability. The new logo resembles the shape of a leaf, speaking to their sustainability vision. The intertwined shapes show collaboration and the merging and melting of pellets to create new materials. More information about the branding process can be found here.

Despite the shift in strategy, Rheom's mission to make bio-based materials an accessible, sustainable solution through collaboration has not changed.  

With this new strategy, Rheom is currently developing its leather alternative sheets and bio-based pellets for injection molding. They intend on scaling production this year. They are always looking to connect with brands or suppliers interested in strengthening the bioeconomy and finding new uses for sustainable materials.

Join Rheom Materials or reach out to their CEO to collaborate on a future of accessible, sustainable bio-based solutions. Bucha Bio has rebranded to Rheom Materials.