SBIR funds internationally marketable quality audit instrument

Image of a laptop displaying the SBIR website

Credit: Jimmy Nazario

By Sarah Fiocco

En’Urga Inc., an advanced diagnostic equipment company, recently found success with a Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) by developing an instrument that will help the quality audits of the pharmaceutical, automotive and aerospace industries.

The small business developed a device for estimating the number and size of drops in a spray. This may sound trivial, but the implications are profound in terms of efficiency and accuracy for the pharmaceutical, automotive and aerospace industries on an international scale.

“People are very interested in this instrument,” said Yudaya Sivathanu, En’Urga Inc.’s technical director. He indicated that En’Urga has already exported two of these U.S. manufactured instruments to China and that several U.S. companies are also interested.

What makes this product so valuable is its ability to simultaneously measure different spray components. Previously, measurement instruments only used extinction tomography, which provided the spray pattern of how drops are distributed within a plane. The new instrument combines extinction and scattering tomography, providing information on drop sizes in addition to the spray pattern.

The pharmaceutical industry uses this information in the production of inhalers. In this process, the pharmaceutical industry will transform a liquid into a powder in a process called spray drying. Using the new instrument will help the industry ensure the spray is evenly distributed to avoid clumping.

The aerospace and automotive industry applies this information in the quality audits of aero-engines and automotive cylinders. An evenly distributed spray of fuel prevents engine imbalances while the drop sizes of fuel determines the speed of evaporation to achieve efficient combustion. The new synchronized measurement system saves industries time and resources while ensuring quality.

“The aerospace industry can test about 1,000 nozzles in an eight-hour shift, where previously, they could only do 50. They would need 20 stations to get the same output to do the measurements with the old system.” explained Sivathanu. “The pharmaceutical industry also benefits. Before, a lot of drugs were thrown out if they discovered the nozzles to distribute a medication were no good during a quality audit.”

NIST’s SBIR program helped En’Urga realize an invention that has become internationally marketable. The small business has already brought $300,000 in from this product alone but projects revenue of $800,000-$900,000 by the end of the year.

“We’re bringing the next generation of the device to the market,” said Sivathanu. “If all companies are this successful with SBIR funding, then that means good things for our economy.”

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