In view of increasingly flexible production lines, small and changing batches and high time pressure, real-time monitoring of reactions is becoming more and more important. The full spectrum of analytical methods is not yet available for this purpose at any location. The founders of Pro-AspectX want to expand the repertoire with their ‘all-in-one’ Raman spectrometer.
Raman spectroscopy is a versatile instrument that can be used for in-line monitoring of numerous processes from catalysis to bioprocessing to crystallization. In common Raman spectrometers, the sensor and instrument are usually two independent components connected by light-conducting fibers. This often makes their implementation costly, especially in explosion-proof areas. Pro-AspectX, a company currently being founded, has developed an alternative to this: “Our non-invasive all-in-one sensor solves the problem of the conventional, very cost-intensive and complex installation of invasive process spectroscopy systems in explosion-proof production areas. The automation of monitoring through a powerful ‘plug-and-play’ technology provides an important building block for the digitalization of the chemical industry,” the three founders describe their innovation.
Simply look through the window
To this end, they have developed a non-invasive Raman sensor that can be implemented in the industrial process virtually overnight: “This is made possible by attaching the sensor to existing flow sight glass fittings and including all the components to operate completely autonomously in the explosion-proof area.” The device is capable of evaluating spectral data internally within the device and directly outputting the process-relevant target variable. During the development phase, the team also paid attention to making the adaptation to the process simple and target-oriented.
With their ‘all-in-one’ development, the founders aim to significantly expand the range of applications of high-performance and selective Raman spectroscopy. “Long installation times, difficult operability, and a lengthy setup to measurement tracking have been a thorn in our side, preventing Raman process installations in large quantities,” the team says, describing their motivation. With the new technology, they say, a ready-to-use Raman measurement station can be brought into the process much faster than before. It could also help make chemical processes more efficient and safer.
Good advice is important
Winning an eXist grant in 2019 gave the founders the final push to set out with their own company – “We are three engineers who are convinced of their technology. Freedom of design, motivation and fun in founding a company drive us to bring highly innovative products in the field of process analysis technology to the market in the future.”
However, a good technological innovation is only one component for a successful company start-up. “At the beginning of our start-up project, a major challenge was to find the right reliable partners to set up a resilient business model that would allow us to get to market quickly. The market for process analysis technology in particular is not forgiving of errors in the subsequent product,” the team says, describing its experience.
Looking for fields of application and new customers
The next steps were easier than expected thanks to the comprehensive support from the state and federal governments. The founders were particularly grateful for the fact that, in addition to financial support, consulting services were also available. Now they are ready to approach customers more intensively and expand their industry contacts; participation in the ACHEMA Start-up Award should also contribute to this: “We are constantly looking for new fields of application for our technology – in other words, above all, customers, cooperation partners and exciting projects.”