Manoa, HAWAII - A Hawaii startup is building cutting-edge tools to help scientists explore the fundamental components of our universe. Nalu Scientific, founded in October 2015, was awarded two $150,000, nine-month grants from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs under the Department of Energy (DOE).

The first award will fund the design and testing of a beam diagnostic tool used in particle accelerators. The second will bolster the company’s efforts to develop a low-cost, low-power electronic processing microchip that can support both scientific research as well as commercial applications like medical imaging and self-driving cars.

“Modern sensors with applications in measuring fundamental properties of matter require modern day electronics for fast processing of data,” explains Isar Mostafanezhad, founder and CEO of Nalu Scientific. “Future basic science, engineering and medical discoveries depend upon novel tools like ours that can provide more precise measurements.”

Nalu Scientific, based at the Manoa Innovation Center, was among the recipients of $31 million in the first release of SBIR/STTR funds for 2019. 

“U.S. small businesses are a crucial aspect in driving innovation and creating jobs in our economy,” U.S. DOE Secretary Rick Perry said in a statement. “The SBIR and STTR programs are an excellent way for small businesses and the federal government to team up to advance scientific research and development, creating a more secure energy future for America.”

Specifically, the Nalu Scientific SBIR awards will support:

Design, implementation, and testing of a single-detector Time Resolved Beam Halo Monitor (TR-BHM), built with high performance strips of diamond integrated with Nalu Scientific’s data processing microchips.

Design, development, and commercialization of the AODS, a fast measurement tool that can detect the properties, momentum, and direction of charged particles and photons in particle and high energy physics experiments.

Mostafanezhad estimates that both projects could each generate $6 million in sales and licensing revenue in the first decade of commercial availability.

These latest SBIR/STTR awards follow two $1 million grants received by Nalu Scientific in September of 2017 and September of 2018 to build a microchip with similar applications.

The SBIR/STTR programs are designed to increase private sector commercialization of technology developed for research and development (R&D), stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, encouraging participation by women-owned and minority- owned small businesses, and improving the return on investment from federally-funded research for economic and social benefits to the nation.

Nalu Scientific says it also collaborates with the Department of Physics of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.