Utah-based H3tec has spent years developing its new technology, which can detect any element or compound up to two miles away. But it looks like this new technology is going to pay off in other dividends as well. After running a full-page ad in USAToday in October, they’re currently “gaining traction” on a deal with Google.
The H3 detector could save lives in food safety, security, military and medical applications. This year alone, the company has won Utah Best of State for Inventor, and was a Finalist in the Stoel Rives/Utah Technology Council Utah Innovation Award in the Material Science/Chemistry group.
President and CEO of H3tec, Charles Christensen, has been working on the H3 detector for eight years after extensive experience studying in engineering, math and science and working with NASA, aircraft and automation.
“The concept of the H3 detector sprang from the fascination I had as a young boy watching Star Trek and seeing the fictional tricorder,” says Christensen. “Although I am in no way a Treky, I said to myself that someday, it would be possible to build a working tricorder. Over the years, I have had great opportunities to focus my mind on developing solutions to a lot of really difficult problems, but I never forgot the Star Trek tricorder. Although I pushed it to the back of my mind, it wouldn’t leave me alone, and 8 years ago I started my first designs for the H3 detector. I am a firm believer that anything is possible if you don’t know it isn’t!
“I have been building and refining the H3 detector over the last eight years of experimentation. I started out building analog machines that weighed 200 lbs. This version of the detector is the fourteenth iteration of the device and it weighs less than 10 ounces. . . . The next version of the H3 detector will feature full mapping through GPS.”
Among the possible applications (aside from what he calls their “most important markets” which “must remain confidential”):
- Homeland Security (all over the world)
- Medical Applications (cancer and tainted food)
- Natural Resources (oil and gas, and minerals; currently, we are very active in this field)
- Military Theater (mapping battle grounds, patrolling, and base safety)
- Intermountain Bomb Removal Squad (currently testing)
- Airborne Sensors (flying over hazardous and remote areas, including HAZMAT)
- Shipping, Airport Security
- Peace Officers (officer safety, drug detection, and detection of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine)
Christensen is also keeping the device open to other markets and devices: “I am now designing an ASIC chip set (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) that will be a miniaturized engine with APIs. . . . The APIs will be open to the world of designers so they can use the engine in any application and integrate this engine with existing devices, like the cell phone, weapons systems, and other hand held devices.”
How does it work? Basically, the detector sends out an impulse that will excite the atom(s) in the selected element or compound when it reaches them. When the atom is excited, the “listening circuit” is complete: the device detects the element. The device has been independently tested and proven by labs including Chemir Analytical Services.
Christensen credits his father, who told him: “Understand the atom, and you understand everything,” with inspiring his love of science and technology, a USTAR grant, the UBDIS program at the Weber-State-University–affiliated Davis Applied Technology College and the Odgen Chamber of Commerce for their help in developing the technology and the company behind it.
To see the device in action (and get a visual explanation of how it works) see the H3 demo video created as part of their ad campaign by Rick Bennett and Dave Biesinger.
This is definitely a very cool technology. What would Google do with the H3 detector? If this were the Times, I’d just tell you. But since this is a blog, I’ll just say: let the speculation begin.