Southwest Sciences Inc News

News Archive

March 2013

Groundwater Analyzer

DOE has selected Southwest Sciences to develop an analyzer to measure pollutants in groundwater. The analyzer is based on a novel cavity-enhanced spectroscopy. The development and testing program includes field tests and comparison to existing analytical techniques. The analyzer will initially target Cr(VI) ions. Contact: Chris Hovde


February 2013

Climate Science

Measuring the growth and structure of fine roots is important to understanding carbon uptake by plants, biogeochemical cycling and crop productivity. Southwest Sciences is developing a fast, high-resolution 3-dimensional optical tomography method for imaging plant roots in-situ. Contact: Kris Peterson

Methane is an important greenhouse gas released to the atmosphere during fossil fuel extraction and processing.  Development of a diode laser-based analyzer that can be flown on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will facilitate wide-spread and accurate measurement of atmospheric methane concentrations. Contact: Mark Paige

Development of an instrument for fast, high precision carbon dioxide isotope ratio measurements on a UAV platform will aid researchers in identifying sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide for climate studies. Contact: Tony Gomez

January 2013

Breath diagnostics

SWS and Avisa Pharma have recently signed a license agreement for development of diode laser-based instruments for the detection of lung infections.

Office Manager Retires

Vickie LeDoux

Southwest Sciences employees had a chance to thank long-time office manager Vickie LeDoux for her many years of service. Vickie joined the company when there were just three other employees. As the business grew, so did her responsibilities, which she met with characteristic efficiency, and she still had time for a glass of wine before volleyball games. In a related personnel move, Debbi Brody has been promoted to Office Operations Manager in recognition of the additional responsibilities she has taken on.

December 2012

Southwest Sciences selected as "Best Place to Work"

New Mexico Business Weekly Best Places to Work logo

Southwest Sciences was one of New Mexico Business Weekly's Best Places to Work. The award is sponsored by Albuquerque Business First and honors New Mexico companies which are rated highly by their employees (as determined by surveys conducted by the business journal) as good places to work.  Southwest Sciences was a winner for 2012 in the small business category.

November 2012

Fire Sensing on the International Space Station

NASA has selected Southwest Sciences to develop a replacement combustion products monitor for the International Space Station.  A laser-based analyzer in a rugged, hand-held package will detect multiple gases that are indicative of smoldering or burning for enhanced crew safety.  This technology is also applicable to earth-based needs for fire sensing, stack emissions monitoring, and air quality measurements.  For more information contact Dr. Joel Silver

Magnetic Microscopy

DARPA funds proof-of-concept research to show how doped diamonds can be used to measure magnetic fields with high spatial resolution. Nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond act as local magnetic probes. We are collaborating with Berkeley (Prof. Dimitry Budker) and TAMU (Prof Phil Hemmer). Contact: Chris Hovde


September 2011

Air Velocity Monitor

The Air Force awarded a Phase I STTR contract to Southwest Sciences to investigate a method for measuring air velocity around hypersonic flight vehicles. The research project partners the company with Professor Dick Miles of Princeton. PI: Chris Hovde.

August 2011

Southwest Sciences celebrates 25 years

Southwest Sciences staff and families at the Cumbres and Toltec railroad station in Chama, NM

Since its founding in 1985 by Alan Stanton and Joel Silver, the company has grown to address numerous research areas in atmospheric science, combustion and fire detection, non-destructive evaluation, measurement of magnetic and electric fields, and process monitoring and industrial hygiene. Three companies manufacture products based on technology developed at Southwest Sciences.

The Southwest Sciences families celebrated in Northern New Mexico style with a ride on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

July 2011

Tropospheric carbon monoxide analyzer

Southwest Sciences has received a NASA SBIR Phase II contract to develop and test a field instrument for high sensitivity measurements of carbon monoxide in the troposphere.

Balloon-borne methane sensor

The Department of Energy has awarded a Phase II SBIR grant to Southwest Sciences for continued development of a self-calibrating sensor for balloon-borne measurements of atmospheric methane. (July 2011)

January 2011

Inlet Unstart Detector

A Phase I contract was awarded by the Air Force to develop an inlet unstart detector for hypersonic flight vehicles. PI: Shin-Juh Chen.

Imaging Sensor

Southwest Sciences received a Phase 1 grant from the NSF SBIR program to develop an imaging sensor system for chemical species concentrations and gas flow properties.

September 2010

Eli Rosen joins Southwest Sciences

Southwest Sciences welcomes Eli Rosen to our research team. Dr. Rosen arrives from a post-doctoral position at the University of North Carolina, where he investigated the chemical aging of organic aerosol particles. He also received his Ph. D. at UNC.

DOE awards grant for nondestructive evaluation

Southwest Sciences has been awarded a $1 million SBIR Phase II grant to develop an optical nondestructive inspection method for thermal barrier coatings (TBCs), which protect sensitive power generation and aircraft turbine components from the hot combustion gases.  This advanced inspection method targets evaluation of TBC integrity/degradation and prediction of remaining useful life of the components.(PI: Kristen Peterson)

July 2010

Tony Gomez joins Southwest Sciences

We are pleased to announce that Tony Gomez has joined Southwest Sciences as a Senior Research Scientist.  Dr. Gomez comes to SWS from a postdoctoral position at Sandia National Laboratory, Livermore. He received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from UC Irvine in 2007. 

July 2010

R&D 100 Award

Chris Hovde of Southwest Sciences and Dayle McDermitt, Douglas Allyn and Bill Miller of LI-COR  accept the 2010 R&D 100 Award

LI-COR Biosciences and Southwest Sciences have been awarded a 2010 R&D 100 Award for joint development of the LI-7700 Open Path Methane Monitor.

July 2010

Three SBIR Phase 1 grants were awarded to Southwest Sciences by the Department of Energy

Self-Calibrating Balloon-Borne Methane Gas Sensor for a low cost, low power diode laser instrument for high precision methane concentration measurements aboard balloon sondes for climate change studies will be developed in this project.

Instrumentation for Measurement of Atmospheric Nitric Acid for a new optical sensor platform that will provide a significant advance in the development of rugged, portable instrumentation for airborne measurement of nitric acid or other gases important in climate change.

Robust Spectrometer for Carbon Isotope Ratio  Measurements for an instrument capable of providing in situ, accurate quantification of both carbon dioxide concentration and carbon isotope ratio of carbon dioxide.  The goal is to provide real-time monitoring of carbon dioxide sources and sinks in the biosphere and atmosphere.

January 2010

The NIH has awarded Southwest Sciences an SBIR Phase I grant for time-resolved measurements of breath hydrogen sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide in breath can be an important indicator of gastrointestinal illness including colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease.  This project focuses on the development of a rapid, optical method for measuring hydrogen sulfide concentrations in individual exhaled breaths.

January 2010

NASA awards two Phase I SBIR projects to Southwest Sciences

NASA awarded two SBIR Phase I contracts to Southwest Sciences. The first project will show the feasibility of using gas filter correlation (GFC) spectroscopy using non-periodic gratings for spaceborne and airborne deployment. This innovative technical approach will result in smaller, lighter weight, lower power, and more rugged instrumentation than is possible using established GFC spectrometers. The approach is based on the development of non-periodic diffraction gratings that replace the reference gas cells used in GFC spectrometers. Steve Massick will lead the investigation.

The second project targets the development of a rugged, compact, and low power instrument for high sensitivity measurement of tropospheric carbon monoxide (CO).  Phase I efforts will address the feasibility of measuring CO to a precision of 10 parts-per-billion or better over a range of tropospheric temperatures, pressures, and humidity. Successful development through Phase II should allow NASA to adopt a single high-reliability system for measurement of CO using a wide variety of platforms (e.g. aircraft, balloons, ground-based network, etc.).

Oct 2009

NASA Funds development of new instrument to measure greenhouse gases

Understanding the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases has been recognized as critical to predicting climate change and global warming. In this SBIR program, Southwest Sciences is developing a lightweight, inexpensive greenhouse gas sensor. A novel measurement technique will allow the sensor to provide dry air mixing ratios of CO2 without the need for concurrent measurements of temperature, pressure or moisture. The sensor will be used on UAV, balloon, and aircraft platforms. Measurements of the precise variations of carbon dioxide as a function of altitude have been tremendously difficult, and this sensor will allow more widespread measurements than currently possible. Joel Silver is the Principal Investigator.

September 2009

Southwest Sciences works with UC Berkeley to develop magnetometer for physics experiment

Southwest Sciences will lead a project to develop a magnetometer for the neutron electric dipole moment (nEDM) experiment. The nEDM experiment uses crossed magnetic and electric fields to measure a possible electric dipole associated with the neutron, testing fundamental theories of matter. To achieve high sensitivity, the experiment needs very precise and homogeneous magnetic fields. Southwest Sciences is teaming with the Budker group at Berkeley to develop an instrument based on nonlinear magneto-optical resonance. The PI is Chris Hovde.

July 2009

DOE selects Southwest Sciences to investigate greenhouse gases and non-destructive testing

The Department of Energy has chosen Southwest Sciences to conduct two research and development projects. One project will develop a rugged laser source that can be used for making high-resolution measurements of carbon dioxide. The PI is Chris Hovde. The second project uses optical diagnostics to improve the ceramic thermal barrier coatings on advanced turbine. Kris Peterson is the project leader.

April 2009

Air Force awards three SBIR Phase I projects to Southwest Sciences

The Air Force has selected Southwest Sciences for three research and development projects.

January 2009

Optics for improving combustion research

Southwest Sciences' multipass optics enhance signals from Raman spectroscopy The green beam from a doubled Nd:YAG laser is used to excite Raman spectra in a flame. To increase the signal, the laser beam is directed through a small hole in one mirror into a nearly-concentric Herriott multipass cell. The beam bounces over one hundred times between the mirrors, always passing within a few millimeters of the center point. By moving the burner around this point, the temperature of the flame can be mapped.

The Air Force has selected Southwest Sciences for a Phase II STTR contract to continue development of optics to improve the signals from combustion measurements. Researchers at the Wright Laboratory use Raman spectroscopy to understand the effects electric fields have on flames. Raman spectroscopy can measure the temperatures of a flame without perturbing it. However, Raman spectroscopy is a weak effect, so signals are low. Increasing the laser power can increase the signal, but laser breakdown sets a limit on the improvement by this path. Dr. Joel Silver showed in a Phase I project that multipass optics can improve the ratio of signal to noise by at least a factor of 50. The optics create a tightly-knit pattern of laser beams at the center of a pair of mirrors. Each beam in the pattern contributes to the Raman signal. The system can also be used to enhance absorption signals in tunable diode laser spectroscopy measurements of species concentrations. The research team includes Dr. Philip Varghese of the University of Texas, who will compare temperature measurements taken with this system to more traditional Raman measurements. For more information, contact Joel Silver.

October 2008

Quantum Dot Lasers for improving LADAR systems

The Air Force has selected Southwest Sciences for a Phase II SBIR project to develop quantum dot lasers systems for military LADAR applications. This two-year project is led by Dr. Dan Kane.

Performance of a quantum dot laser with 4.4 ps pulse width. The typical pulse width, gain bandwidth, and L-I (light vs current) curve of an 8 mm long, 2 section quantum dot mode-locked laser.

Military LADAR systems are used to identify tanks and other objects, even in the presence of camouflage. LADAR systems use pulses of light to make a topographic map of the target. Light pulses of short duration can provide more details which leads to more reliable identification of the target. Real world military systems also must be compact, robust, and inexpensive. Southwest Sciences has teamed with Professor Luke Lester at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM to build and characterize monolithic, passively mode-locked quantum dot semiconductor lasers for LADAR applications. With pulse widths of less than 5 ps, they easily meet the time resolution and bandwidths needed for the shaping requirements of next generation military systems.

Quantum dot laser development requires simultaneous development of the lasers and laser characterization tools. Prof. Lester has pioneered quantum dot laser R&D, and his laboratory is well equipped for the development portion of the project. Dr. Daniel J. Kane at Southwest Sciences has pioneered methods for ultrashort laser pulse characterization. He is the co-inventor of the most effective characterization method: frequency resolved optical gating (FROG). The Phase II effort will build on methods developed in Phase I and will continue the development of quantum dot-based passively mode-locked diode lasers in order to better facilitate the use of these lasers in arbitrary optical waveform generation for LADAR applications.

October 2008

High Precision CO2 Field Sensor

Southwest Sciences has won a grant to develop instrumentation for detecting carbon dioxide (CO2), the Department of Energy announced. The two-year grant through the SBIR program funds additional research and development of this new instrument, which will be useful in studying how CO2 is taken up by the biosphere. Such research is a vital part of the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), which calls for a better scientific understanding of the sources and sinks of CO2 and of the interactions between the biosphere and atmosphere. The research is led by Dr. Joel Silver, a co-founder andVice-President of Southwest Sciences.

"While a variety of instruments exist for high precision flux measurement of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, none combine the attributes of reliability, precision and low cost," says Dr. Silver. His approach combines traditional optical spectroscopy with an automated method for calibrating the instrument. This project builds on the successful Phase I research, which demonstrated that the self-calibration procedure can achieve high precision (needed for the science goals) without external calibration gases or expensive temperature control of the instrument. The Phase II research addresses issues beyond laboratory performance, such as the ability to be deployed in widespread field operations over extended periods of time, as will be needed to study long-term variations in CO2 exchange between the biosphere and the atmosphere. For more information, contact Joel Silver.

September 2008

Residential Fire Detection

The United States ranks poorly among industrialized nations in fire safety. Various statistics from the US Fire Administration illustrate our national problem. Fire killed more Americans in 2006 than all natural disasters combined. Fire-related injuries have declined over the last decade; yet fatalities remain nearly constant. Functioning smoke detectors are present in 23% of fatal residential structure fires. These facts imply a need for better home fire sensors. Digging more deeply, however, reveals additional issues. Fire fatalities occur disproportionately among young children and the elderly, and – as with fatal automobile accidents – alcohol consumption is involved in nearly half of fatal fires. Also, poverty and fire are statistically linked. The death rate in poorer sections of the country is three times the national average.

Dr. Steve Massick is leading a research project funded by NIST to develop a new generation of smoke detectors to improve safety in the home. "Existing smoke detectors are not very effective, particularly for children and the elderly," he says. New fire sensing technology must be cheap, (nearly) maintenance free, and provide fast response to kitchen fires as well as fires originating in clothing, furniture, and bedding. These types of fires are problematic for conventional photoelectric and ionization smoke detectors, so fire detectors are not placed in kitchens. Southwest Sciences approach is based on a combination of low cost optical imaging sensors to provide immunity from false alarms, so that kitchen fires can be detected and alarm thresholds can be reduced to provide earlier warning of fires. Low costs per sensor will enable a network of these devices throughout the residence. This is a difficult problem, but the benefits can be measured in thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars saved every year.

May 2008

Southwest Sciences wins two DOE awards

The US Department of Energy awarded Southwest Sciences two Phase I SBIR grants. The first is "Differential Absorbance Spectrometer for Carbon Dioxide Isotope Measurement." This project seeks to develop a compact, rugged, low cost optical sensor platform for measuring isotopic ratios of carbon dioxide and other important greenhouse gases. Such a sensor would help research to understand the effects of carbon dioxide on climate. The second project, "Magnetometer for the Neutron Electric Dipole Moment Experiment," will develop technology to measure magnetic fields with high sensitivity. This capability will benefit DOE’s fundamental research, but also has spin-off applications in medicine, mineral exploration, and homeland security.

April 2008

USDA award for measuring hazardous gases at animal farms

Significant emissions of environmentally important gases result from manure management systems associated with animal production. Confined livestock and poultry operations are identified as important sources of emissions that are of environmental concern on spatial scales ranging from local to regional, national, and global. Hydrogen sulfide is one such gas. Existing detection methods for measurement of H2S are slow and possibly susceptible to false results due to other sulfur compounds. The proposed approach will directly measure H2S emitted from animal production operations, particularly manure management systems. This project will demonstrate an instrument that can provide a versatile combination of high sensitivity and fast time response that will greatly enhance capabilities for measuring concentrations and emission rates of H2S associated with animal manure management systems.

January 2008

Senator Bingaman visits Southwest Sciences

Senator Jeff Bingamen tours the labs at Southwest Sciences.  Jan 2008.

Senator Bingaman visits Southwest Sciences.

Senator Jeff Bingaman toured Southwest Sciences' facilities where he learned about ongoing research into new medical imaging, trace gas detection and optical diagnostics. He discussed the importance to New Mexico's economy of small businesses like Southwest Sciences which create high-value products based on new technology, and the role the Federal government can play in advancing these opportunities.

November 2007

NASA awards four Phase I SBIR contracts to Southwest Sciences

NASA selected four proposals from Southwest Sciences for award in the highly competitive SBIR program. The projects span the range of Southwest Science's research efforts. "Optical Method for Real-Time Turbine Blade Tip Clearance Measurement" uses an innovative technology based on optical Fourier domain reflectometry for near real-time tip-clearance measurement with an accuracy of 10 micrometers or better. Benefits of this approach include increased turbine efficiency, reduced emissions, and extended service life. "Magnetometer for Calibrating Jovian Fields" investigates a method to accurately measure total magnetic fields in the range 0 to 1.6 mT in support of missions to Jupiter. "Fast Temperature Sensor for use in Atmospheric Sciences" investigates a low power approach to measure temperature that is unaffected by cloud particles or aircraft speed. The sensor will be sufficiently lightweight and compact for use on balloons, kites, and UAVs as well as more conventional research aircraft. "Mirage Fire Sensor for Spacecraft" will use highly miniaturized, low power cameras to image a simple geometric pattern projected onto a flat surface, detecting fires by the distortion of the image.

October 2007

Southwest Sciences wins R&D 100 Award

Joel Silver and Mark Paige receive the R&D 100 Award.

Southwest Sciences teamed with Southern Cross to develop the '46 Hawk, a hand-held detector for finding leaks in the natural gas pipeline network. Southwest Sciences gas detection technology eliminates hazmat problems with earlier detectors and shows excellent sensitivity and selectivity, with virtually no false alarms. This invention received the R&D100 Award, and it is now manufactured and sold by Southern Cross.

May 2007

Southwest Sciences partners with Southern Cross for gas leak detection

Southwest Sciences has joined with Southern Cross Corporation to develop instruments for natural gas leak detection. Southern Cross of Norcross, GA is the premier gas leak detection workforce service provider and manufacturer of electronic leak detection equipment in the United States. The first product developed under this partnership is the '46 Hawk handheld leak sensor. The Hawk uses diode laser spectroscopy to detect methane. A wide dynamic range was achieved so that the Hawk is capable of measuring trace concentrations of less than 1 ppm for locating leaks, all the way to 100% methane for finding the source of the leak.

Contact Information

Southwest Sciences, Inc.
1570 Pacheco St., Suite E-11, Santa Fe, NM 87505
tel. (505) 984-1322/ fax (505) 988-9230



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