ATR infrared spectroscopy is a widely-used technology to analyse samples of various kinds. Blood analysis using IR spectroscopy is a major subject in current research. Protein analysis using IR spectroscopy suffers from low sensitivity, and the functionalisation of crystals is expensive and time-consuming. ATR Elements, on its way to revolutionise the sample carrier market, replaces the costly and integrated ATR crystal with a novel, inexpensive, interchangeable and sensitive sample carrier.
ESA BIC Manager Cornelia Gebath (CG) interviews Alexander Geißler (AG), Managing Director at IRUBIS.
CG: Hello Alexander, thank you very much for your time. Please give us a sneak peek of your product and the team behind it.
AG: ATR infrared spectroscopy is an established method to analyse samples of various kinds. An important core component is the sample carrier, which is mostly made of diamond and is therefore very expensive. Our product is a low-cost silicon sample carrier, which is manufactured using standard semiconductor processes. It is over 100 times cheaper than conventional diamond sample carriers and the infrared signal is enhanced up to 20 times.
Our founding team can draw on the expertise of two physicists and one businessman. To cut a long story short: Lorenz knows how to manufacture the sample carriers, Anja knows how to use them, and Alex knows how to sell them.
CG: What has been your company’s biggest challenge so far?
AG: The biggest challenge for us was to find a proper application for our technology. What we do is revolutionary in the field of infrared spectroscopy, and this means that the application also needs to be revolutionary.
CG: Can you explain the three main ingredients of your recipe for success?
AG: Hard work, persistence and an outstanding team.
CG: What do you expect from ESA BIC Bavaria and how did the initiative and its network help you to kick-start your business case?
AG: The ESA BIC Bavaria made it possible, for example, to pitch at the Laser World of Photonics 2017 and draw our attention to the Laser Photonics Award, where we gained 2nd place and valuable contacts.
Besides that, the financial support of ESA BIC Bavaria helps us to achieve proof of concept and gets us ready for a seed-financing round.
CG: How does the DLR supports you?
AG: To give you quite a concrete example: the DLR has a whole department for optical sensors which also works on infrared spectroscopy. We see possibilities for collaboration here.
CG: Let’s reach for the stars – what is going to happen in PHT’s future?
AG: One of our customers plans to investigate the photostability of organic molecules at the ISS and he wants to use our sample carrier for this experiment. That basically means that our products are quite literally reaching for the stars.
At the same time, we are currently focusing on making high-throughput ATR infrared spectroscopy possible. The first product will be released as soon as in the next few months, at latest at Analytica 2018.