October 28, 2013
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The team is on the ground in Syria trying to dispose of the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.
A technician at a site owned by the East Syracuse company INFICON is putting the finishing touches on a suitcase-sized green plastic machine called a HAPSITE. The HAPSITE is a portable gas chromatograph mass spectrometer. I’ll say that one more time: portable gas chromatograph mass spectrometer.
Its name is an acronym for ‘hazardous air pollutants on site.’
INFICON recently filled an order for the portable gas detectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The OCPW was called in shortly after the U.S. and Russia helpbroker a deal for Syria to give up its stockpile.
How the HAPSITE works, product manager Amy Arnold explained, is by taking in air samples and breaking them down into smaller and smaller parts. "And so we take these different fragments as a fingerprint of a chemical. And we have a library on board so the fingerprint of the chemical matches the library and produces an identification. So something completely unknown can be identified by our product."
It’s able to process those results in about 10 minutes. INFICON President Peter Maier says it’s an important tool out in the field. "So it identifies and quantifies and does it extremely accurately, extremely reliable, so you can basically take your gas mask off. That’s really the key test. Do you trust your instrument enough to take your mask off."
The HAPSITE has been in development for about 15 years. It’s on the fifth generation now. All the development and assembly work is done at the here in East Syracuse.
The U.S. military is another major customer. Now, for Arnold and the team working on the HAPSITE, knowing that a Nobel Peace Prize winner is using their product is gratifying. "Sigh…yeah. That’s what our whole goal is, to make sure we have a piece of equipment that somebody can use so that we can make our world safe. Simple as that; really is."