Posted December 3, 2007 6:23 pm by with 12 comments

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h3tec logoUtah-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.

diagram from USAToday ad for H3tec

“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.

still from H3 demo videoTo 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.

  • This is a pretty interesting thought for a phone. However, I think we are going to need more technology to integrate the two successfully. They might use it to detect certain items, but not items like precious stones. That wouldn’t really help society.

    Interesting post.

  • The demo video is pretty bad, but the technology is pretty cool.

    What would Google do with it? I suppose they’d develop the technology to detect spammers. Then googlers would wander the streets seeking to find spammers everywhere and rid the internet of them.

  • tired

    Another fear device? Im so sick of FEAR FEAR FEAR being crammed down our throats. What if that thing senses fireworks? Will they be banned? United States of Fear Detector(R). So basically this thing sends out frequencies that “activate” atoms based on their harmonic signature? Homeland security all over the world. WTF…?

  • Jordan McCollum

    Fireworks are already regulated pretty extensively . . . where I live, they’re only legal four weeks out of the year. Not sure where you’re trying to go with that example.

  • OMG! A real life tricorder? Could anything be cooler? Seriously? Once they get past this BETA version and get a working 2.0 version, it’s going to be amazing. You could use it to find girls…anywhere! Even when they are hiding behind rocks and things. Sweet!

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  • This almost looks too good to be true. If it really does work, this could be one of the most disruptive technologies ever invented.

  • With Zander leaving Moto, H3 has offered him a seat on the board. He didn’t say no and he will make a decision after the 1st. Stranger things have happened.

    And yes this thing really works!

  • MIT is very interested in this and there will be a 2 page article in their February publication. Look for it…

  • BillC

    There have been significant studies on the H3 detector “technology.” (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to search the Internet for skeptical analyses.) To put it simply, it doesn’t work as claimed – except as a fancy type of dowsing rod. Read the blurb carefully, and you will find that it is full of terminology that is scientifically incoherent! People have taken these apart in an attempt to reverse engineer it, and found it to be impossible — you can’t reverse engineer something that doesn’t have any real working parts – it is just a hash of random electronic components slapped together. The U.S. Navy was duped into spending tons of money studying these devices (under various names) and found they are less effective than guessing. That’s right — in a double blind study, random guessing is proven to be more effective!
    Don’t be taken in. Don’t throw your money away.