STTR Phase I: Handheld Open Source Photometer as enabling tool for Enzyme-based analytical chemistry

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014

$225K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

THE NITRATE ELIMINATION CO INC
334 HECLA ST
Lake Linden, MI 49945
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Research Institution

Michigan Technological University
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931

Abstract

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to make chemistry more accessible by developing a rugged, compact, LED-based photometer that communicates data to other devices via Bluetooth. The photometer and data processing functions will be designed to work with the company?s simplified test kits for Green Analytical Chemistry. The photometer will be sold at just above cost, estimated at $200, because it enhances the utility and value of company?s easy to use test kits. The business model is inkjet printer (the photometer), with test kits as the cartridges. The product development focuses on simplified test kits based on recombinant enzymes and no hazardous reagents. These kits enable unskilled operators to obtain actionable data. The initial target market is the Technical Service Providers who advise agricultural producers on fertilizer application decisions, giving them a new value-added service to offer. This project will produce a tool for enabling ?citizen science?. Technical tools in the hands of many people can benefit scientific understanding and stewardship of the environment. This Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Phase I project integrates recombinant protein technology with advances in LED-based photonics and the power of portable computational devices. The company was founded in 1993 to commercialize its founder?s basic research into enzyme structure and function, concentrating on the plant enzyme Nitrate Reductase (NaR). It now develops and manufactures recombinant enzyme reagents and test kits for green analytical chemistry, replacing heavy metals and concentrated acids with environmentally benign proteins. The company?s AtNaR is now a US EPA alternative standard method for nitrate analysis. These simplified test kits are designed for onsite use by unskilled users. The new enzyme-based kit for measuring phosphate content in soils yields results in the UV (260 nm) and requires a photometer, but there is no suitable device on the market (assay volume is one milliliter). The customers in the agriculture sector need new technology for soil testing to optimize fertilizer applications, decrease wasting and damaging runoff while maintaining high yields. They need data that that is compatible with commercial agriculture software packages, including GPS location and sample identification. The photometer will read two wavelengths, 540nm for nitrate and 260nm for phosphate, send results in the users? preferred measurement unit.