Biofuels Digest’s The Competitive Edge: Activated Research Company
Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?
Activated Research Company (ARC) was founded in 2014 with a mission to make chemical analysis easy. Utilizing our expertise in catalysis and microreactor design, we develop novel devices that simplify both liquid chromatography (LC) and gas chromatography (GC) analyses. Our products have numerous publications, methods, and applications and are utilized in a variety of government, academic, and industrial organizations including the National Renewal Energy Laboratory, POET, various university bioenergy research groups, Dow Chemical, and more.
The concept of our flagship product, the Polyarc system, was developed in chemical engineering research labs with a renewable energy focus at the University of Minnesota and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Researchers at these universities were pyrolyzing cellulose and had to spend numerous hours trying to quantitate hundreds of analytes per sample, while also dealing with varied response factors for oxygenates and other substituted compounds. In order to reduce the time spent on chemical analysis, the university researchers proposed a catalytic conversion process allowing for equal, uniform response for all organic species, thus simplifying the quantitation and decreasing the necessity for calibration.
ARC, aided by the Department of Energy, improved and commercialized the concept and thus launched the Polyarc system. The Polyarc allows for increased accuracy and speed in quantitating analytes, along with safer laboratory conditions due to the use of non-toxic materials. It further supports laboratory safety by reducing scientists’ exposure to hazardous solvents and decreasing the need to store these solvents and standards.
Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?
ARC is a product development company with many solutions for chemical analysis, especially in the biofuels space. We’re passionate about developing products using our expertise in catalysis and microreactor design to address gaps and needs in the current arena of chemical analysis and detectors. This includes easily incorporated catalytic reactors for both GC and LC and the world’s smallest and most user-friendly methanizer for CO and CO2 analysis. The commonality between all of our products is that they’re aimed at making chemical detection simpler. Our devices provide a quicker and cleaner way to analyze biofuels, biochemicals, pyrolysis products, and more.
ARC also provides services in designing custom catalytic microreactors for various applications. We’ve received funding from the Partnership for Clean Competition to develop a reactor to aid in anti-doping testing and applications for clean sport, and we’ve also secured a partnership with NASA sub-contractor KBRWyle to develop a microreactor for testing potable water in space.
Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?
Our products, put simply, make chemical analysis easier for the scientists in the lab. Using transformative chemistry, the Polyarc provides a universal detector response to all organic species which simplifies the work needed to obtain analytical results while also increasing confidence in the accuracy of these results. The Polyarc is especially beneficial for analyses in which heteroatoms are present, including oxygenates (e.g. acids and alcohols), sulfur-containing species, and amines (e.g. HCN). The Jetanizer, our second GC product, miniaturizes existing technology by tenfold and simplifies the analysis of CO and CO2. Our next product launch addresses deficiencies with existing detector technology and brings universal carbon detection to LC.
The Polyarc has specifically been used for a variety of biofuel and biochemical analyses, including ethanol fermentation, pyrolysis products, lignocellulosic materials conversion, organic acids, trace impurity analysis, and more. This has led to its usage within many leading research institutions which focus on these types of analyses. According to University of Minnesota’s Distinguished Professor and biofuels researcher, Paul Dauenhauer, “[This] is really the holy grail of chemical analysis.”
Q: What stage of development are you? Choose one:
Commercial stage – have mature products or services on the market.
Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?
As a company, our core competencies lie in using innovative catalysis and microreactor design to develop products that improve upon current product offerings. This can mean improved performance through increased robustness, new quantification capabilities with decreased complexity, increased sustainability by using non-toxic metals and materials, and even cost-savings for users through reduced calibration steps. Our catalysts are quite literally transforming how analyses are currently performed, making them more efficient and safer overall. The versatility and seamless integration into current systems are what give our products further traction beyond the benefits previously described.
On top of our revolutionary product line, the team at ARC are all problem solvers at heart and strive to make sure our products are a good solution for our users. Regardless of how challenging an analysis is, our expert support is proven to ensure proper integration with minimal downtime and disruption to existing routines.
Q: What are some of the top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?
Our biggest milestone will be the release of our newest detector for LC, the Solvere. The Solvere brings the benefits of the Flame Ionization Detector (FID) for GC to LC, allowing for universal response for nonvolatile organic compounds. It will improve and streamline research and development efforts in government, academia, and industry, allowing for research that was previously prohibitively expensive or impossible.
Following the launch of Solvere, we are excited about another product offering for the analytical space which improves upon traditional instrumentation, the ARC OFID. This product addresses industry needs for the analysis required for ASTM D5599, detection of oxygenates in gasoline. Our product allows for this analysis to be performed at much lower temperatures than existing instruments, while also increasing robustness and decreasing complexity.
Finally, as ARC grows, we’re excited to make headways in the fields of healthcare and energy by continuing to create products that will change peoples’ lives and improve the human condition. Part of our company’s mission has always been to improve the world, and we’re starting down this path with our reactor for anti-doping applications and also novel methods for breath testing. Moving into the energy sector through renewable fuels and other technologies will bring together our product development abilities with ways to make a lasting effort on the environment and the world.
Q: What are some of the top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?
ARC’s objective is to enable scientists to perform analyses more efficiently and effectively, therefore enabling them to work toward advances in renewable fuels, chemical safety, environmental awareness, and more. The three top milestones we’ve accomplished that align with these objectives are: receiving the NSF SBIR Phase II grant for new product development, availability of ARC’s flagship product from a major OEM in the industry (Agilent), and receiving two WesTEC Awards from The Dow Chemical Company (Dow).
ARC had previously been awarded an NSF SBIR Phase I grant to fund fundamental research for the development of the Solvere. Due to ARC’s success in achieving the milestones listed within the grant proposal, ARC received the Phase II grant to continue research and development on the product and bring it to the commercial market.
Agilent Technologies is a major instrument manufacturer who has the majority of the market share for GC instrumentation. Within the past year, it was announced that ARC’s flagship product, the Polyarc system, is now available through Agilent in North American markets.
Finally, ARC has received two prestigious WesTEC Awards from Dow in two years. The submissions communicated how two of ARC’s products, the Jetanizer and the Polyarc Ultra, would benefit Dow, add value to their analytical research and development, and positively impact the technical community.