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David Bricker
University Communications

Carrie Parsons

Last modified: Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Indianapolis tech company licenses IU Bloomington chemist's device

March 3, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation has granted Indianapolis-based Prosolia, Inc., the option to license an IU Bloomington technology that promises to improve medical, forensic and scientific endeavors.

Radio-frequency glow discharge device

Photo by: Gary Hieftje Group

IU Bloomington chemist Gary Hieftje and members of his research group have made major strides forward recently in developing new technologies that could benefit science and medicine. Pictured here is a "pulsed radio-frequency glow discharge" device in operation.

Print-Quality Photo

And thanks to a new STTR (small business technology transfer) grant from the National Institutes of Health, Prosolia's scientists will work with Steven J. Ray and Jacob T. Shelley in IU Bloomington chemist Gary Hieftje's research group to develop the Hieftje group's "ambient" mass spectrometry device into a market-ready product. Prosolia was founded by Purdue University researchers.

"Ambient mass spectrometry is already demonstrating its promise in a host of important application areas," Hieftje said. "Our new source, the Flowing Atmospheric-Pressure Afterglow, or 'FAPA,' is an extremely attractive addition to the existing arsenal in this field, and has already been shown capable of measuring quantities smaller than a trillionth of a gram and to be applicable to materials ranging from pesticides to pharmaceutical products, and explosives to illicit drugs."

Prosolia will seek matching funds from the 21st Century and Technology Fund to accelerate commercial development of the IU technology.

FAPA works by exposing an unknown sample to a flow of extremely hot and energetic gas. The gas ionizes (charges) metals and other elements in the sample so they can be measured by mass spectrometry or ion-mobility spectrometry. The mass spectrum can then be analyzed to determine the compounds present in the sample.

If the technology reaches the marketplace, it should be cheaper, faster and just as accurate -- if not more so -- than some devices currently in use.

"This is an example of what the Indiana Innovation Alliance is all about," said Prosolia CEO Pete Kissinger, "technologies from Indiana University and Purdue University coming together in a scientific instrument company solving problems of wide interest."

Hieftje said the licensing of IU technology by a Purdue-associated business, and the collaboration of IU and Purdue scientists, is an important aspect of the project.

"It's especially true in science that we find more opportunities for collaboration than competition," Hieftje said. "If the technology succeeds like we hope it does, the state will benefit by bringing money to Indiana and employing Indiana people."

Hieftje and his Prosolia colleagues have worked together on other projects in the past.

Hieftje recently reported successful tests of a similar device to FAPA in the journal Analytical Chemistry, and was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop a separate device that improves gel electrophoresis, a bread-and-butter tool in life sciences laboratories.

To speak with IU Bloomington chemist Gary Hieftje, please contact David Bricker, University Communications, at 812-856-9035 or To speak with Prosolia CEO Pete Kissinger, please contact Carrie Parsons at 317-278-6058 or