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ABQ startup ready to go with gas detection device

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Charles Harb, owner of RingIR, has developed a hand-held device that detects and measures gases and chemicals. (Marla Brose/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque startup is emerging from stealth mode this week to commercialize new, mobile technology that can immediately detect and identify gasses for security, industrial or research purposes.

The company, RingIR Inc., launched in Albuquerque in August 2016 at the WESST incubator Downtown after more than 10 years developing its technology in Australia and New Mexico. But it remained under the radar until now to advance its initial technology prototypes and begin building business operations before going public

Now, the company has its first paying contracts in place to detect gasses in Australian mining operations, and it’s about to sign another contract with security forces in that country for anti-explosives detection, said RingIR founder, President and CEO Charles Harb.

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The company already received some funding from the New Mexico Angels. It plans to make its first public presentation about the technology at the Angels quarterly dinner Thursday night.

“We’re signing our first security-related contract now to deploy instruments in the field to measure substances, such as at mass events with lots of people,” Harb said. “For the mining industry, we’ll help measure silicate dust that causes black lung.”

The company is also collaborating with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts to place small detectors in tubes for carbon readings in deep ocean settings.

The technology, which the company calls “molecular fingerprinting,” detects, identifies and measures the molecules of nearly any gas in any setting. It’s based on a commercially available optics sensing process known as cavity ringdown spectroscopy, or CRDS, that uses lasers to measure light at the molecular level, Harb said. The company further advanced that process using infrared light to color-code targeted molecules for identification, and it built an advanced data processing system to immediately measure and report findings in real time.

“We built a database for molecular fingerprinting, so if the substance is logged in our database, the technology will find it,” Harb said. “Each molecule is unique. It just depends on what you’re looking for.”

RingIR also reduced the entire technology into mobile instruments for field deployment, eliminating the need today for security forces or others to take thousands of swabs in a targeted setting and then send them back for lengthy analysis in a laboratory.

“Firefighters or forensic scientists can’t put those bulky lab instruments on their back,” Harb said. “They need things to go into the real world.”

Harb, a quantum optics physicist, is from Australia, but his wife’s family is New Mexican. The Australian Federal Police approached Harb about a decade ago to develop a mobile explosives-detection device, leading to about $8 million in research and development at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, plus assistance from Los Alamos National Laboratory in recent years.

The New Mexico Angels will help RingIR build its business operations, including an eventual manufacturing facility in New Mexico.

“It’s everything New Mexico wants – new advanced technology with future manufacturing operations right here,” said Angels President John Chavez.

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