Sunburst Sensors Awarded NOAA Phase 2 SBIR Grant

Missoula, MTSeptember 10, 2013—Missoula-based Sunburst Sensors, LLC announced today that its application for funding to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program within the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been selected for a competitive award of nearly $400,000. This Phase II award follows a Phase I award of almost $100,000 received by Sunburst Sensors in 2012.


The company will use these Phase II funds to advance the development of a novel ocean drifter that can measure acidity (pH) and the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) levels of oceans and report these measurements to researchers via satellite telemetry. Sunburst Sensors expects to conclude its Phase II work with a commercial prototype of the ocean drifter. The finished product will complement the company's established line of related sensor technologies used by the global research community to closely monitor conditions in oceans around the world.

 
"Ocean acidification is driven by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. It alters seawater chemistry and has been linked to detrimental impacts on a number of marine organisms," says Dr. Michael DeGrandpre, Professor of Chemistry at The University of Montana and co-owner of Sunburst Sensors. "The "ocean acidification" drifter will allow researchers to survey large areas of the surface ocean and will produce valuable data to understand the scope of the problem."


The new ocean drifter technology will leverage technology used in Sunburst Sensors' existing products, to create a simpler, smaller, less expensive instrument. Sunburst Sensors President and CEO James Beck explained, "We are excited that NOAA has decided to fund this work. It allows
us to accelerate our research and development efforts and get something to market more quickly."


The funds are part of NOAA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which funds early-stage research and development of technologies of interest both to the business and to the federal government. Eleven different federal agencies participate in the SBIR program. This new award will be Sunburst Sensors' fifth SBIR award from NOAA, but according to Beck, it will not be the company's last. "The SBIR program is exactly the kind of funding resource small companies need if they are engaged in the development of truly innovative technologies," says Beck. "Moreover, the assistance we have received with our proposals from the state's Montana Technology Innovation Partnership program has been invaluable in helping us prepare and submit proposals that better respond to what the agency is looking for."
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Sunburst Sensors, LLC is a Missoula, MT-based company founded in 1999 to manufacture and market chemical-measurement instrumentation for marine and freshwater applications. The company currently has nine employees, including physicists, chemists and engineers. The company has won several state and federal R&D grants, but its primary source of income is from the sale of its line of patented chemical instrumentation to researchers around the world in industry, academia and government. Sunburst Sensors was recently awarded a $2.5 million contract to manufacture instruments for the National Science Foundation's global Ocean Observatories Initiative.


The Montana Technology Innovation Partnership program (http://mtip.mt.gov/), based in the Montana Department of Commerce, promotes technology development and commercialization as a proven economic-development strategy for Montana. MTIP's free individualized assistance helps Montana companies win targeted state and federal R&D awards, and ultimately, realize the benefits of commercializing their technologies — e.g., higher-paying jobs; more opportunities to retain our talented graduates and increased tax base at all levels.
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