Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After NASA Win, Sensor Startup Has Prospects on Earth and in Space

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After NASA Win, Sensor Startup Has Prospects on Earth and in Space

Article excerpt

A St. Louis startup's technology, designed to detect air quality problems on Earth, may also be headed into space.

Applied Particle Technology, based at the BioGenerator in the Central West End, recently won a $100,000 prize from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which is looking for ways to protect astronauts from airborne pollutants. The win could lead to a test of APT's sensor on the International Space Station, and perhaps eventually to its use on manned missions to the moon or Mars.

APT was founded by two Washington University chemical engineering Ph.D. graduates, Jiaxi Fang and Tandeep Chadha, and their professor, Pratim Biswas. The company is developing sensors to detect aerosols, which are liquid or solid particles suspended in the air.

At 5.5 ounces, its sensors are small enough to be worn on, say, a factory worker's belt. The sensors also transmit exposure data in real time, alerting factory managers or public health officials to an air-quality emergency. That alone, Biswas says, is a big advance over existing sensors, which are bulky, expensive and not monitored continuously.

APT also is working on the capability to distinguish among types of particles, which would help users identify the source of pollutants.

Fang and Chadha, who started the company as graduate students, won a $50,000 Arch Grant in 2015 and were selected for the Ameren Accelerator this year. During the accelerator program, they had access to several Ameren experts and toured the utility's coal-burning Labadie plant to see how the sensors might be used in an industrial setting.

Steve Whitworth, senior director of environmental policy at Ameren Missouri, was one of several utility officials who mentored the APT entrepreneurs.

"We knew of some of the work they had been doing and there was interest in advancing the technology," he said. …

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