If you like to breathe clean air (who doesn’t?), the work of Potsdam Sensors LLC should be of interest.
The young company, founded and owned by Clarkson University professor Suresh Dhaniyala, is tackling the problem of air pollution by developing a better way to measure specific pollutants. The goal is to develop small, affordable and accurate sensors to measure the very tiny airborne particles in smoke or vehicle exhaust that degrade air quality.
Potsdam Sensors’ product is in the prototype phase. The sensor is small enough to be hand-held, Dhaniyala said, and its level of accuracy sets it apart. Its relative low cost makes it affordable to use in clusters in hospitals or smart buildings, near highways or busy streets, or just about anywhere where air pollution is a concern.
Marilyn Freeman, CAMP Director
The company, housed in Clarkson’s incubator space in Peyton Hall, is on the cusp of commercialization, which will likely mean licensing the technology and leaving the manufacturing to someone else.
Dhaniyala traveled to Albany recently to represent Potsdam Sensors in the first FuzeHub Commercialization Competition, created to support New York State startups in product development. He and 16 other entrepreneurs pitched their products before a live audience; Potsdam Sensors was one of five companies to win the competition and $50,000.
In April of 2017, the company was awarded a $225,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer Grant. The Coulter Foundation has also been a generous supporter, according to Dhaniyala.
In the quest for a better sensor, Dhaniyala has visited hot spots across the globe, including India and China, to learn how others are tackling air pollution and to share information about his research activities.
The launch of Potsdam Sensors in 2011, with the help of Clarkson’s Shipley Center for Innovation, follows about 15 years of research and support for Dhaniyala at Clarkson University, where he is the Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering.
Potsdam Sensors has been closely working with CAMP (Clarkson’s Center for Advanced Materials Processing) in technology development and transfer. “It is believed that the low cost, high quality of this sensor will have global impact in terms of commercial application,” notes CAMP Director, Marilyn Freeman, a supporter of Potsdam Sensors and the work of Dhaniyala.
“The support from everyone for our efforts has been fantastic,” Dhaniyala said.
On the horizon is work with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in Albany and New York City to field test the sensor and to understand the concentrations of very small particles (or ultrafines, particles less than 100 nm in diameter) near communities.
Whether in Beijing or New York, there is a need for better data to inform policy decisions, Dhaniyala said. Potsdam Sensors seems to be on the leading edge of providing that vital information.