During his postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Chris Brown designed a lens system that has the potential to improve the performance of imaging and display systems. Now co-owner of a company specializing in optical instruments that measure distance, Brown is the first awardee in a grant program designed to help launch high-tech companies based on NIST technologies.
NIST holds the patent on the lens system and has licensed it to Z-senz, the company Brown owns with co-founder Darryl Ngai. Z-senz will receive $112,000 to commercialize the technology for use in a resonant light detection and ranging (R-LIDAR) distance sensor. The NIST-patented lens system will be used to create high-performance R-LIDAR devices that are smaller, lighter and use less power than current state-of-the-art distance sensors, making them well suited for small unmanned aerial systems used for high-accuracy, remote surveying.
The NIST Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program (N-STEP) is funded by NIST and administered by Maryland TEDCO, an independent organization that provides entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland's innovation economy.
The grant program was launched in November 2015 with the goal of providing opportunities for motivated researchers to build upon the experience they gained at NIST as they explore entrepreneurial careers. For example, before co-founding Z-senz, Brown spent two years working in NIST's Material Measurement Laboratory through the Postdoctoral Research Associateship Program, which is a collaboration with the National Research Council.