Paper engineer Walter Reichel is annoyed one day that too much is thrown away in paper production. Above all, carbon fibers have to be sorted out during production and are therefore waste products. The 76-year-old considers the fact that carbon is a very good conductor of electricity could turn out to be useful. On a whim, he thinks what if you “just add the carbon fibers”. The pensioner turns to his friend and colleague Peter Helfer (55), who owns a small print shop in Dachau. Together they try to establish a connection, but carbon and cell fibers do not get along too well. It quickly becomes clear that there has to be a perfect mixing ratio. “After many, many attempts,” reports Reichel, “it works”: They develop the first paper that conducts electricity.
That was over ten years ago. At first, Reichel and Heller don’t really know what to do with it. A friend advises you to apply for patents and they do so in 2012 and 2013. In retrospect, Reichel is very grateful to him. Many large corporations now also want to develop electrically conductive paper and are trying to force the two inexperienced entrepreneurs out of the market. But Reichel and Helfer are sure of their product.
In a small group of friends and family alone, they develop and market their product under the company name Kohpa. They are currently looking for investors and buyers, which is why they are presenting their product on the television program “Die Höhle der Löwen” this Monday evening and are soliciting financial support.
“Sustainability has always been our top priority”
Conductive paper can do two things: on the one hand, it is used to shield electromagnetic radiation and, on the other hand, to heat the thinnest surfaces. Reichel and Heller have named their shielding product Kohpa-protect. Some companies are already using it for ecological house construction so that it protects against electrosmog. The screen efficiency can be up to 99 percent, according to the inventors. This means a shielding factor of 400 with a power transmission of 0.3 to 0.4 percent. The heating paper operates under the name Kohpa-therm. It counts as the thinnest and lightest surface heating in the world. The paper can be connected to the electrical current in the low-voltage range. Due to the small space requirement and good malleability, floors, ceilings and walls are just as easy to heat as areas that are difficult to access and complex shapes. Temperatures between 35 and 60 degrees Celsius would be reached, says Walter Reichel.
“Sustainability has always been our top priority,” he says and advertises that his start-up company from Dachau offers global potential in the area of the upcoming energy transition. Only recycled raw materials are used in production and the final production offers a high level of energy efficiency. That is why the electrically conductive paper from Kohpa was selected and recognized by the European Union as one of five particularly innovative materials for the environment from all over Europe for the representative “Green Materials Box”. You didn’t even apply for it, says Reichel, who is very happy about it. Then Reichel and Heller were invited to the Greentech Festival in Berlin, where they were able to join the list of renowned exhibitors and well-known companies.
“We never really wanted to go there”
In the Vox program “Die Höhle der Löwen” the two want to present their products in order to acquire money from investors. The show starts at 8:15 p.m. in which they advertise an investment of 200,000 euros and offer 15 percent of the company’s shares in return. “We never really wanted to go there,” says the Meringer. They would already be very familiar with the small and manageable paper production market and therefore never felt it was necessary. A sheer coincidence brought her to the private broadcaster. An acquaintance of his son works for the production company of the show and became aware of the conductive paper at a meeting, says Reichel. So he and his colleague Peter Helfer were invited by the broadcaster. “Why not?” They thought. Whether the product presentation will be successful or not, Reichel is happy that “we are allowed to appear at all”.
Reichel and Heller invested a lot of time and energy for their products and never paid themselves a salary. Any money won would have been reinvested in the company, assures the Meringer. So far, they have also done without further employees. Help comes only from close family and friends. One of Reichel’s sons and his wife take care of the press work, the other helps with his scientific expertise. The daughter takes care of the website and her friend is responsible for the translation into English. So you could speak of a family business. In any case, Reichel and Helfer do not seem like tough entrepreneurs who want to get big money with their idea. Rather, they let their product speak for itself. So far she has had success with it.