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An Interview With Don Sackett, CEO And Co-Founder Of SciAps

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Below is our recent interview with Don Sackett, CEO and Co-Founder of SciAps:

Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to SciAps?

A: I’m Don Sackett, the CEO and Co-Founder of SciAps, a Boston-based instrumentation company. We specialize in the development and manufacturing of cutting-edge handheld analytical instruments. Our focus lies in creating instruments that can measure any element, anywhere on the planet. Our industry-leading X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and laser-based (LIBS) analyzers have made significant strides across a multitude of sectors, including oil/gas, metals and mining, aerospace, battery technology, critical minerals, and more. What sets us apart is our commitment to versatility – our instruments are configured to measure elements in various materials, making them applicable across a wide range of industries. We’ve been involved in diverse fields such as space research, pandemic antiviral coatings, agriculture, and environmental contaminant analysis. At SciAps, we take pride in our role as pioneers in the handheld analytical instrument industry, constantly expanding our applications to meet the evolving needs of different sectors.

Q: Who is your ideal client and why?

A: Our handheld analyzers are used to measure any element in the field or the lab. If you need to know the chemical composition of a material, then you are our ideal client. Our customers range anywhere from scrap recycling to academic research. In fact, our customers surprise us all the time by using our instruments in unique ways. For example, a team of scientists recently used our LIBS for food authentication. Originally, we developed the first handheld LIBS in 2016 with a focus on providing accurate carbon measurements for the manufacturing industry. Witnessing our technology being used in this novel way is exciting and rewarding for us.

Q: Can you tell us something more about your products?

A: Exciting developments are happening at SciAps, and one of our latest innovations is the Z-9 Liquidator Test Station, which stands as the world’s only portable system dedicated to analyzing lithium in brines. Currently, brine samples are sent to off-site laboratories for analysis, which requires several weeks to obtain results. With our system, results can be determined in a matter of seconds, offering real-time decision-making on the economic viability of the lithium concentration in the brines. We also created the first handheld XRF analyzer that uses a 55 kV X-ray tube for extra low detection limits on key rare earth elements (REE’s) like La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Sm. These are critical elements for the batteries in all EV’s, wind turbines and other non-hydrocarbon power generation. We recently announced a new R&D partnership and financial investment with Portable PPB on the new capabilities of the X-555 to further push the limits of Au (gold) analysis while also investigating the technology for elements Ag (silver) and Cu (copper). Portable PPB has developed the world’s first portable technology to measure Au in gold samples at commercially meaningful levels.

Q: What can we expect from SciAps in next 12 months? What are your plans?

A: As we transition towards a low-carbon economy, the surge in demand for metals across the exploration, mining, refining, fabricating, and recycling sectors is inevitable. This heightened demand includes Copper and extends to lithium, battery metals such as Ni, Co, Mn, and both light and heavy rare earths, not only in production but also in recycling efforts. To meet the analytical demands arising from this escalating global need, we are developing a range of portable analyzers that can operate without a radioactive isotope, analyzers designed for assessing environmental metals in soils, consumer products, and water, and analyzers that measure minerals and compounds directly. Additionally, we proudly provide the world’s only handheld device capable of measuring carbon content in steel and other alloys. These analyzers play a crucial role in ensuring pipeline safety, adhering to new US DOT regulations—currently for oil & gas pipelines and future-proofing for the transition to hydrogen transport.

Q: What is the best thing about SciAps that people might not know about?

A: There are actually two things that people may not know. First, not only are our analyzers lightning-fast, but we also rev things up in the high-speed world of NASCAR. SciAps sponsors not only one but two racecars that compete in the Xfinity Series, and we’re gearing up for another great season in 2024. Secondly, there’s a history behind SciAps that traces back to the roots of handheld technology. Many of the key individuals behind SciAps were founders and employees at Niton and InnovX, (aka Thermo Fisher Scientific and Evident.) Most people don’t know that we’ve been in the business of handheld technology from the beginning. In fact, our team helped to develop the world’s first handheld XRF in the mid-1990s, and then right after 9/11, we developed the world’s first XRF gun with an X-ray tube instead of a radioactive source.

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