Advanced Plasma Solutions'
in a 20,000-square-foot former investment office at 31 General Warren Blvd. in the Great Valley, is the latest high-tech, do-it-yourself lab and business incubator to erupt in the Philadelphia area.
Plasma is a fourth state of matter, different from solid, liquid, or gas, and often highly reactive. Plasmas are made in nature, for example, when lightning passes through air, or in factories, by pressuring a gas until its electrons fly loose. Fluorescent lights and plasma TVs are based on plasmas in pressurized containers that glow when electric current passes through.
Controlling plasma in lab conditions, at temperatures up to 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as room temperature, can give the user strong and precise cutting and welding tools, speed sterilization, and catalyze gases or gunks into flowing liquids, for example.
Pack those powers into small, digitally controlled devices in a 3-D printer, and you can make some cool prototypes for mass gadget production or process demonstration.
AmpTech is run by genial, high-energy Mike Antonucci, a refugee from corporate America (Fujitsu, Hewlett- Packard), an entrepreneur (EarlyStageProducts, VoiceVerified), and a founder of the local 3-D Printing Alliance.
Antonucci showed me around AmpTech, where his nascent staff is installing offices and plasma tools - 3-D printers capable of handling composite materials under pressure, a "fully staffed plasma lab" with "hard-to-find plasma devices and prototypes," including specialized nozzles and wet and dry lab systems; material supplies; expert staff; work stations; and design stations.
His crew is inviting scholars, students, big companies, and start-up firms to join and engage.
AmpTech's owner, Advanced Plasma Solutions, was founded three years ago as a plasma-technologies development firm by the engineers Roman Fedorovsky and Igor Shamis.
In one project it is pursuing with a couple of industrial partners, Advanced Plasma holds an exclusive license from the A.J. Drexel Advanced Plasma Institute at Drexel University, one of the leading U.S. academic centers for plasma study, for liquefying natural gas into liquid fuels. The technology, if proven, would open potential high-value markets for Pennsylvania natural gas, says Simon Kassas, one of Fedorovsky's partners. The company is also working with an industrial partner to gasify waste plastic into fuel.
"Our projects are not cheap," Kassas told me. "These are new, possibly disruptive technologies. The purpose of AmpTech is to take this kind of plasma service and make it available for the local guy, the small entrepreneurs who may want to rent time with the scientists and the lab, do their own testing, and come out with a prototype" for another plasma application.
Antonucci says the mix of scientists, engineers, and businesspeople AmpTech is attracting will "foster real innovation without creating intellectual-property issues or other barriers to their success."
AmpTech plans an open house March 19. More information is on its website at www.AmpTech.org.