Company Background


Sunburst Sensors, LLC, formed in 1999, is owned by Professor Michael DeGrandpre, the inventor of the SAMI technology, and Mr. James Beck, who serves as its CEO. The company was originally established as a vehicle for the transfer of technology from academia to the private sector, starting with the SAMI-CO2. Sunburst Sensors provides a means for proven technical innovations in autonomous chemical sensing to be made available to scientists, engineers and others around the world.  Beyond this, the company has been able to successfully compete for grants via programs such as SBIR, MBRCT, NOPP, NSF, etc. and leverage this R&D funding into real world products.

Sunburst Sensors strives to provide its customers high quality chemical sensors for marine and freshwater applications.  The SAMI-CO2 and SAMI-pH (Submersible Autonomous Moored Instrument) have been deployed by researchers around the world interested in long term monitoring of pCO2 and pH. In 2011 these instruments were chosen for use by the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) - a large scale endeavor funded by the National Science Foundation to construct "a networked infrastructure of science-driven sensor systems to measure the physical, chemical, geological and biological variables in the ocean and seafloor." Other customers include organizations such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Scripps, OSU-COAS, NASA, USGS, NOAA, etc.  Sunburst Sensors has a strong track record of using grant funding to develop successful commercial devices. Based in Missoula, MT, Sunburst has customers in over twenty countries.

In 2015, Sunburst Sensors won the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE using instruments based on their SAMI-pH sensors. This was an international competition with everything from tank testing to a 3000 m depth profile.  Sunburst Sensors won the 'Affordability' purse with the iSAMI - a prototype of an upcoming product for use in shallow waters.  We also won the 'Accuracy' purse with the tSAMI, which was basically a regular SAMI-pH with a titanium pressure housing to withstand the 3000 m requirement.

Dr. Mike DeGrandpre is a Professor of Chemistry at the The University of Montana and co-owner of Sunburst Sensors. His research focuses on the development of chemical sensors for marine and freshwater applications.  The pH and pCO2 sensors developed in his lab have been deployed in all of the world's major ocean basins in addition to estuaries, rivers, lakes and recently, caves.  These studies have revealed the dynamics of  the carbon cycle with implications for  anthropogenic CO2 sequestration and ocean acidification.  DeGrandpre's latest breakthrough is the development of an autonomous alkalinity sensor, in collaboration with Dr. Reggie Spaulding of Sunburst Sensors.  This instrument will be a powerful new tool for studying ocean acidification and the marine carbon cycle.

Mr. James Beck is the CEO of Sunburst Sensors, LLC of Missoula, MT and a Mechanical Engineer with a strong interest in instrumentation. For the last decade he has worked with co-owner, Mike DeGrandpre on the development of pH and pCO2 sensors for marine and freshwater applications, while building the company into a competitive player in the biogeochemical instrumentation market. A fourth generation Montanan, he looks to bring high technology jobs to the state. He has his BSME from MIT and MSME from University of Washington.