My journey in photonics and passionate vision of smart spectral applications

My journey in photonics and passionate vision of smart spectral applications

Photonics & especially light has been the essence of my passion in my life. While at high school, I wanted to understand the difference between life and death only to find out, that without solar energy, there is no life on planet earth. During my studies in chemistry, I investigated the photochemical interactions, including the possibility of extending the artificial leaf invented by Prof. Grätzel.

At that point in time, I had the opportunity to work with a Lambda 900 from Perkin Elmer and got familiar with UV-VIS-NIR Spectroscopy and the possibility to measure photochemical reactions quantitatively with such spectrophotometers. More than 20 years, my business career is vested in the Photonics arena, working for laser, optics and spectroscopy companies enabling innovators to use those photonics tools to make this earth a better place every day. 

At Spectral Engines, a NIR spectrometer has been miniaturized to the level of a TO-can. The size of the spectrometer has been reduced to 2 centimetre sized cube weighting 15 grams. Measuring the near infrared spectra of textiles, plastics, drugs, liquids or gases enables users to distinguish sugar from cocaine or a counterfeited cognac from its original with a mobile scanner fitting into the palm of hand. Our NIRONE technology can change the mobile phone to a material scanner. You can only imagine the wide range of industries that will be transformed by this revolution.

As part of the Nynomic Group, our NIRONE sensors can be found in process control tools (CNIRS) by tec5 as well as in agricultural tools and devices enabled by m-u-t. Thus Smart Industry is at the heart of Nynomic Group and it is great to watch the seamless fit of Spectral Engines within this company framework. 

The (tecSaaS) tec5 industrial process device is truly one great example. It utilizes Spectral Engines’ miniaturized sensors and tec5’s industrial embedded software and hardware experience. 

The increasing rate of development in NIR technology, electronics, and information technology is leading to the commoditization of the NIR spectroscopy towards the end-users from consumers to prosumers and even industrial end-users. This is enabled by 1) development of miniaturized sensors and 2) incorporating cloud computing and machine learning 3) use of smartphones/tablet and their apps as an interface, which eliminates the need for the expertise of interpreting the results in the use of applications.

The commoditization also affects the industrial application in the context of the Industry 4.0 as well as increasing the numbers of the data collection point in various process exponentially and generating vast amounts of measurement data from processes. The big data cumulated is, then, crunched into an understandable format to end-users with machine learning and AI algorithms. This can be seen in all walks of life  from  farms producing food to law enforcement to our own homes.

One big growing arena for our NIRONE solutions is in consumer applications and Smart Homes. The new era is already begun as BSH Hausgeräte GmbH, one of the globally leading companies in the home appliance sector, developed an innovative laundry scanner based on our NIRONE sensor technology. The application areas of consumer material analyzers will in the future cover textiles, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and food.  

Another great example is a Finnish company Head Recycle Systems (HRS) which has developed a solution that can be mounted into sorting bins at regular apartment buildings. All this will make people’s life easier and more efficient, but it will also help to fight climate change through resource and energy savings, recycling and waste management. We literally bring science to people’s everyday lives and this is my dream come true. 

Combining the technical capabilities with the miniaturization and utilizing the IoT with machine learning & cloud computing creates powerful handheld devices validating and identifying specific substances and materials right away. 

Such smart sensor applications are out-growing the classical bench-top spectrophotometers applications and enable new ways of thinking and implementation. Spectral Engines will be a part of the exponential growth in smart spectroscopy solutions with our revolutionary chemical sensor capability combined with data science and digitalization!

Being part of this journey for our partners to identify a smart solution for their application, either in brand protection, safety, agriculture or white appliances, makes me proud every single day. You can also contact us to discuss your application and let us help you to make the smart spectral solution you need.

By Thanassis Kokorakis