Magnitude Instruments is “Kicking Axis, Taking Names” While it Fuels Renewable Tech

Written by Cara Aungst

October 12, 2021

5 Qs with Spectroscopy Founder

Magnitude Instruments is a Ben Franklin-fueled startup with a mission: to make time-resolved spectroscopy available to everyone … not just the super nerds. “We’re democratizing it for all researchers,” says founder Eric Kennehan. And he says that incubating the company here in Happy Valley has been critical to their growing success. “There’s no way we could have started the company, or have had the success we have experienced so far without all of the amazing resources in this area.” 

Find out what makes their company “kick axis” and how they are impacting green energy from here in Happy Valley. Read on.  

HappyValley: Can you tell me a little bit about Magnitude’s spectroscopy? How are your products creating success stories for your clients? 

EK: We specialize in time-resolved spectroscopy (In the same way that a time-lapse camera captures images over long time-periods, our instruments take snapshots of molecular events on  a billionth of a second timescale which can be stacked together to create a movie of the events that occur on a molecular level. This “molecular movie” then allows researchers to watch chemical reactions happen in real-time.) This type of spectroscopy is used to study materials that have applications for solar energy harvesting, batteries, fuel cells, and other forms of renewable technologies.

Our instruments enable measuring science that was previously impossible, and we do it easily and quickly. Before now, time-resolved spectroscopy was only accessible to highly specialized researchers in academic settings, but now we are seeing scientists across many disciplines beginning to use them analytically. We’re democratizing the technique so all researchers have access to it. 

HappyValley: Can you tell me about your company culture? What makes Magnitude Instruments stand out in the spectroscopy world?

EK: We are very focused on researchers’ success. At the end of the day, the scientists are the real rockstars and we are just providing them with the tools to write their success story. So we focus on how to make the tech great so that they can succeed. 

We feel our company culture helps make us unique and we try to reflect that in our branding. As you can see from our website, we have taken a more lighthearted, fun approach to a highly technical field that’s outside the status quo for our industry. We want our company to be approachable by everybody, not just specialized spectroscopists. Everyone can be a rockstar with Magnitude Instruments.

HappyValley: Tell us about your new products that will make spectroscopy available to more researchers?

EK: We are unveiling a new product called the enVISTA this Fall. It is a more compact spectrometer with all of the same performance of our flagship products that will target the educational market. We will be bringing this spectrometer to our upcoming tradeshows and for the first time ever, we will have a  transient absorption spectrometer operating on a tradeshow floor. A few years ago, that would have been impossible. We plan to have visitors measure fun samples, like lager vs. stout, to help break down the, ‘it’s too difficult to use’ barrier.

Our goal is to get this type of instrument into more hands so it can be used to make more immediate impacts. 

Scientists that are doing research on renewable energy technologies can really benefit from instruments like the enVISTA. The world is going electric, but we still produce the majority of electricity using coal and natural gas so there is a significant need to switch over to renewable sources. Technologies such as solar fuels and solar panels are quite promising, but in order to see widespread use, they need to be efficient, portable and inexpensive; time-resolved spectroscopy can help toward making this a reality.

HappyValley: Can you tell me about the recent Ben Franklin investment? How will it be a catalyst for growth?

EK: We recently raised additional funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners as well as 1855 Capital. We are planning to use these funds for deeper market penetration to reach smaller research institutions along with industrial research labs outside of R1 universities. 

HVI: Why Happy Valley? What are the advantages of building Magnitude Instruments within the Happy Valley ecosystem? 

EK: I think there’s a lot of motivation in this area and there is quite a bit of support with resources such as the University, Ben Franklin, Happy Valley Launchbox, and InventPennState. All of these resources have been very impactful in helping us get started. The tech community really helps to motivate entrepreneurs. 

We’ve had access to really great resources. There’s no way we could have started Magnitude Instruments, or have success we’d had so far, without all of the resources in this area. 

Cara Aungst writes about industry, innovation and how Happy Valley ideas change the world. She can be reached with story ideas and comments at Cara@AffinityConnection.com

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