Revolutionary TA CR project to pioneer the world’s first portable Mössbauer spectrometer designed specifically for industrial applications

Palacký University’s Iron Analytics spin-off company, in collaboration with the Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN) of Palacký University Olomouc, aims to create a groundbreaking device no larger than a coca-cola can. This cutting-edge spectrometer will enable rapid and precise analysis of iron-containing materials directly within industrial operations, transforming the way we approach material analysis. This unprecedented project will be funded by the Technology Agency CR, with a substantial budget of CZK 6.5 million under the Trend Nováčci programme. Over the course of three years, the team will develop a fully functional prototype of the portable Mössbauer spectrometer, alongside a comprehensive knowledge database dedicated to the analysis of iron-containing materials. This collaborative effort promises to reshape industrial analysis, delivering unmatched efficiency and accuracy in the field.

“Getting Mössbauer spectrometers into industrial practice is an endeavour that has been pursued by numerous teams worldwide, but progress has been limited. Our experience indicates that the lack of success can be attributed to the reliance on existing laboratory instruments tailored for research institutions or universities, which necessitate transporting samples to specialized facilities for analysis. Determined to break this pattern, we embarked on a distinct path, aiming to conceive an entirely novel instrument tailored explicitly to the industry’s unique demands. Our vision is a miniaturized device with straightforward operation, enabling it to draw power from a regular power bank, and offering control through any smart mobile phone or tablet. By reimagining the traditional approach, we aspire to bring convenience, portability, and accessibility to industrial-grade Mössbauer spectroscopy. This groundbreaking innovation holds the potential to revolutionize material analysis within industrial settings, driving efficiency and accuracy to unprecedented heights.” stated Jakub Navařík, the principal investigator of the project and managing director of Iron Analytics.

Despite his experience with designing a 4th generation laboratory Mössbauer spectrometer, which the spin-off company has been producing and selling for two years on the basis of a licensing agreement for the use of know-how with Palacký University, Navařík will have to start manufacturing this portable device almost from scratch.

“Right from the outset, our focus lies in constructing a spectrometer tailored for industrial deployment. To achieve this, we are meticulously designing the dimensions, ensuring simple functionality, and streamlining operations to align with industry standards and requirements, including factors like dust resistance and other specific industrial demands. Traditionally, companies have relied on sending their samples to laboratories, such as the Mössbauer facilities at CATRIN and the Faculty of Science at UP, for measurement. However, we are flipping the paradigm, empowering companies to conduct measurements on their own terms, effortlessly and swiftly, through our cutting-edge spectrometer. By embracing modularity, our system will be incredibly versatile, allowing it to readily adapt to the unique needs of each client. The goal is to liberate industries from dependence on external laboratories, putting the power of precise material analysis directly into their hands. This novel approach promises to usher in a new era of industrial efficiency and autonomy, paving the way for accelerated progress and innovation within the world of material analysis.” elucidated Navařík.

In stark contrast to the bulky laboratory Mössbauer spectrometers, which typically span around 70 centimetres in length and weigh approximately 15 kilograms, our mission is to engineer a portable industrial solution no larger than an ordinary beverage can. This ambitious feat necessitates refinement of the mechanical layout, innovative electronics development, and the creation of a user-friendly interface by our dedicated team of spin-off workers. Simultaneously, our co-investigators from CATRIN, set to receive nearly half of the subsidy, will concentrate their efforts on crafting a comprehensive knowledge database. The database will bring unparalleled advantages of Mössbauer spectrometer measurements, showcasing their superiority over other conventional techniques that persist in industrial practices by default.

“Securing a joint grant alongside UP’s spin-off company marks a significant milestone, affirming the success and efficacy of its establishment,” stated Pavel Banáš, Director of CATRIN. “This spin-off company, created with CATRIN’s assistance in 2021, stands as an exemplar of optimal know-how transfer. Enabling and supporting such exemplary cases has been the primary objective of this TA ČR programme. The triumph of this project unequivocally demonstrates that fostering spin-off companies not only facilitates the seamless transition of university-developed technologies into industry but also ushers in fresh opportunities and economic advantages for the university itself.”

The new equipment should be used mainly in the steel and automotive industries, but also in other sectors in the production of iron products, surface treatment or product quality control.

The journey of Mössbauer spectrometer development at Palacký University goes back to 1993, catering for the needs of local researchers. Subsequently, the second generation of the instrument ventured into the realm of commercial applications a few years later. A significant turning point occurred approximately a decade ago when Jakub Navařík, as part of his dissertation work, spearheaded the creation of the third-generation, steering his focus towards the commercialization prospects of this cutting-edge technology. Building upon these successes, he led the development of the improved fourth-generation in 2021. Yet, the potential for commercialization faced limitations within the university, particularly concerning administrative capacities. Consequently, in the same year, a spin-off company was established, securing a license from the university to manufacture and distribute Mössbauer spectrometers. Swiftly transcending previous commercial achievements, the spin-off company achieved remarkable success in the subsequent year, surpassing all expectations. Notably, the university retains a stake in each sold instrument, which commands an average price of about half a million Czech korunas.