Curtis Laush is a process chemist and the new Photonics Laboratory Manager at SiREM based in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has over 30 years’ experience in the development of optical remote sensing measurement methods and instrumentation that serve many industries. He has conducted field measurement services, instrumentation installation and maintenance services, training and chemistry consultation, data interpretation and applied technology development. He is trained as an optical spectroscopist and gas/aerosol phase chemist. Dr. Laush received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign in 1994.

What do you look forward to most in your new role as the Photonics Laboratory Manager at SiREM?

C.L.  Applying the latest in optical technologies toward the better understanding and optimization of physicochemical systems. Analytical measurement methods and systems developed in our lab provide the necessary means for this in (near) real time. I look forward to working with the staff at SiREM to advance the science and continue to increase the use of photonics in the marketplace. 

Could you provide a brief high-level overview of SiREM’s Photonics service area?

C.L.  Our facility is a highly stocked physical chemistry laboratory that specializes in applied R&D and the development of field functional and custom-engineered real-time gas, aerosol and liquid analytical measurement systems. These get implemented accordingly to on-line process and environmental characterizations, optimizations and solutions. Our service provides a fully calibrated, optimized and integrated solution to our customers. As with all of SiREM service areas, customer service is our number one priority, and we work closely with our customers to provide them with the customized system that suites their needs.   

Could you describe the skill sets that you will bring to SiREM and our Photonics customers?

C.L.  Basically, I bring 30+ years of physical process chemistry experience and the physics background that enables the development and application of the latest in optical spectroscopy for continuous real-time measurements. There are a broad range of applications that I will outline below with the follow up question.  

What are the sorts of problems that SiREM’s Photonics service area help customers solve?

C.L.  A good (and certainly partial) sample list would be: 

  • Catalytic and thermal oxidizer chemistry characterizations and parametric modeling of abatement systems involving organic acids and VOCs; 
  • Airborne molecular contamination (AMC) monitoring of parts-per-trillion level gases and aerosols within factory production environments and ambient air; 
  • Low-level greenhouse gas measurement and inventory of perfluorocompound (PFC) emissions; and 
  • Thermal PFAS chemistries and characterizations of their incomplete combustion. 

Are there currently any technological limitations that you are currently working to overcome involving your continuous monitoring applications?  

C.L.  As with the development of all analytical monitoring methods, the perpetual objective is to drive capabilities toward faster and more sensitive measurements. The continuous measurement systems in our lab have progressed from 10-minute ppm-level monitoring tools to 5-minute ppb-level monitoring systems, to current work involving the development of minute and sub-minute (millisecond) ppt-level on-line measurement systems. Our goal is to continue to improve on limitations to meet the challenging projects that our customers bring to us. 

Is there a moment in your career that you are particularly proud of?

C.L.  There are several, but one that stands out would be as the lead technical developer of a continuous low-level greenhouse gas measurement and inventory method for the entire semiconductor industry, one that is written into US EPA Rule 40 CFR Part 98, Subpart I as a promulgated method. 

Could you describe one of the most challenging projects you have worked on?

C.L.  A significant series of current and upcoming projects with a major semiconductor manufacturing client, which involves the development and process engineering of continuous sensors applied as control loop devices on a significant line of production tools installed across the US, and beyond.  

What do you enjoy doing outside of work hours?

C.L.  I am a bit of a science “geek so I do a bit of my own reading and various home/software projects outside of work, but at least my wife manages to pull me out of the house for our share of outdoor traveling, hiking and biking activitiesI am a big racquet sports participator and have played in organized baseball leagues for 30+ years.  I’ve been known to hit a golf ball occasionally straight at times.