Author Archives: Raffaele Battaglia

Why the open source hardware will change the Science

A year has already gone by the   launch of openQCM and there are many things to tell. When we have tried as private company, the way of the open source by launching one of the first scientific analytical instrument in the world completely open hardware, we would never have imagined this level of success. We designed the OpenQCM for a market sector that we thought very restricted: the Quartz Crystal Microbalance.

The evening of the launch we had sold more than 8 devices, and at the end of this year we have sold hundreds of products in many countries of the world and especially to the most important research institutes and large private companies that we had not taken in account. Before the launch, I would have called a success the overall sale of 30 units!

 

Basically, that which is born almost on a bet, has become an unexpected and very important component of our business …. to such an extent to lead us to take up this new road in a more systematic way, with the design and the realization of new open-source scientific products, that we will launch soon through the openQCM platform.

The fundamental reason why I write this is to share our experience and to encourage those who want to see their new product realized. Novaetech, the company that we founded more than 10 years ago, was born with the purpose of delivering services and custom systems for the research world. We started our adventure in the field of aerospace, and then we have differentiated our business over time. These activities have allowed us to achieve a number of prototypes, which were supposed to be turned into real products. Unfortunately, the dream often must face the reality, especially if one works at a national context such as our country, Italy, where to invest the money on an idea is nearly unimaginable.

Throughout these years, we have contacted and met countless potential investors in order to find the necessary resources for the realization of a first prototype. Indeed, every time we have found locked doors …. and in the meantime our prototypes kept closed in a drawer or relegated to extremely limited and specific applications and uses. After all, our company did not have enough resources to get to start production or even distribute new products.

At the same time, the international economic crisis has had as consequence the contraction of our turnover, risking to drift a decade of hard work. It was in these circumstances that, at the end of 2014, we have decided to change strategy thinking it would be better to loan our ideas to the rest of the world rather than keeping them closed and unused, perhaps forever … and this was a winning move!

I have always been a fan of the open source concept, and among early adopters since the beginning of the ‘90s with Linux. I remember how the discovery of a different way of thinking about the software, through an open approach to share and develop, was at that time revolutionary and at the same time exciting and thrilling. Then, in the last few years, this concept has been extended to the hardware, with benefits and implications that even today I think it is difficult to understand.

The Open Source / Open Hardware strategy is and will become more and more an important resource in the world of research and business, especially for small companies like ours, as well as for individual Makers, Designers, and Research institutes and even, I believe with certainty, for the large companies … and the corporations have shown us a willingness to use open source technology!

In these days, we are seeing the establishment of a shared Manifest for Open Hardware in the field of science.  The access to Open Source scientific instrumentation will bring down the gap between the richest countries and those that, at the present, have no chance to devote large resources to research. All thanks to a growing team of people involving makers, scientists, engineers, programmers …. a movement that starts from the base and results in an overturning of the concept: “I invest only where there the market is.”

A movement that is involving even openQCM device, which, with the help of researchers and users, has led us perfecting the device and planning the release of new versions with more features and performances. Many researchers, in fact, have not merely used the openQCM device, but also actively contributed to the future development. They have provided basic information, creating an increasingly broad base of testers. Today we can say, thanks to them, that openQCM device works better than our preliminary expectations and that there is still much work to be done, no more alone, but with the community that has grown with us in the last year.
I conclude with an encouragement to those who not yet started this type of adventure. Do you have an idea? Try it and you will see that so many people across the network certainly are expecting an idea to come out … and this will help you with the support and cooperation characterizing an open movement.


Raffaele

openQCM quartz crystal microbalance press release

openQCM news and press review

openQCM quartz crystal microbalance press review release

openQCM quartz crystal microbalance press review

The openQCM is really proud to share the latest reviews about the open source quartz crystal microbalance. This is also the opportunity to give thanks to people supporting the openQCM project. Continue reading

Quartz Crystal Microbalance openQCM: our first test

As already mentioned, we have just completed the design and the electronic optimization of the Quartz Crystal Microbalance openQCM. At the moment we already have 2 working devices. So, we are very glad to show the first test in liquid environment.

In order to demonstrate the real behavior of the system  we have preferred to make a video. In my opinion is the best way to highlight the openQCM performances. Furthermore, it is a good opportunity to view the Java software in action!

openQCM is a system designed for working both  in air in liquid environments, the latter being the most challenging in terms of frequency noise and oscillator circuit design. The main aim of the experimental test are measuring:

  1. The frequency signal stability in air and liquid environments;
  2. The typical system equilibrium time after the liquid injection.

We chose to report raw data without any kind of data processing. This is very important for the evaluation of the performances of a sensing device, that’s the best way to appreciate the quality of opeQCM. In the final version of the  software we will use an algorithm for signal processing, in order to drastically increase the S/N ratio. But as you will see, the “raw” results are very exiting !

In this test we use a AT-cut quartz crystal at 10 MHz, pure water and a CellTram Oil microinjector.  The first part of the test was in air and after few minutes we injected water in the chamber. After the injection we collected more than 1/2 hour in order to evaluate the long time behaviour of the quartz sensor in liquid.

The first exciting results is that after the water injection, the system reached the thermal equilibrium in only few minutes. The second great results is the perfect horizontal plateau which remains at the same stable level for the rest of the experimental test.

If you want to evaluate by youself the quality of raw data you can download the data file here.

 

 

Quartz Crystal Microbalance

Why an Open-Source Quartz Crystal Microbalance ?

[pullquote]I do open source because it’s fun and it works… Companies who work with the kernel community will waste less time and they’ll just work better. Linus Torvalds [/pullquote]

openqcm_exp

Quartz Crystal Microbalance openQCM – exploded view

Hello, in a few days we will launch our first scientific Open Hardware product.
I therefore believe it is appropriate, as first post to introduce and explain the reasons why we decided to adopt an “Open-Source” strategy.
My name is Raffaele and I am the co-founder of Novaetech Srl, a company that has been operating, for almost 10 years, in the field of applied research and sensors.
Despite being an astrophysicist, involved in the past in theoretical research about Cosmic Background Microwave Radiation, the Ph.D. in aerospace engineering has led me to a crucial turning point in life.
Specifically, I have been involved in the development of systems based on Quartz Crystal Microbalance, designed to detect and study the presence of dust and water vapor in extraterrestrial environments, such as the planet Mars and the 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, that in the past weeks has been approached by the ESA Rosetta spacecraft.
After a few years in the world of research, I decided to found a company together with some of my colleagues. Our main goal was to create real business starting from our know-how. Our aim was to design and produce high technology custom systems, and offering specifics problem solving services for the research and for the industry.
We initially worked only in the aerospace sector. Gradually, however, with the acquisition of new expertise, we decided to extend our activities in wider research fields, where was specifically necessary to employ ultra sensitive mass sensors characterized by extreme performances.

And so we have designed and implemented systems for medicine, biology, environment and energy.

Thanks to our activities, we have had the honor to work with leading international institutions and companies as NASA, ESA, Pirelli Labs., Thales etc. We have contributed to the filing of patents for new MEMS technologies and we have published several scientific papers in journals such as Science and Analyst.

But, it has always been our greatest desire to create a specific product, whose technology core could represent our history. A product to be easily accessible to all by maintaining high technology and quality at the same time. A product absolutely Open-Source… and more better Open Hardware.

As matter of fact, we firmly believe that sharing knowledge is the crux of the new future. Only open access could be the basis of a better society.

We are working around several other ideas, but we felt that our first step should allow easy access to a particular research facility. So we decided to develop a new concept Quartz Crystal Microbalance device: openQCM.

Why a Quartz Crystal Microbalance system? QCM are based on the intrinsic property of the quartz crystal: the piezoelectricity. As a consequence the development of analytical devices for microbiology, materials science, pharmaceutics and medicine, can be simpler and potentially cheeper. A device in which
the quality of measurements and related results depend mainly on the intrinsic feature that nature gave to the quartz… only one system for a wide field of applications.
As matter of fact, QCM systems are today widely used in various fields of research and industry. However, it is difficult to gain access to such a technology, in form of a complete HD/SW system, unless investing from a few thousand up to several hundred thousand dollars. But there are many research institutions and small enterprises unable to support high costs for instrumentation resources.

To these reasons, we wanted to start by making available a research tool that everyone can very easily build by yourself, or buy at a very affordable price. The only way to do this is trough the Open Hardware concept.
As happened in Open-Source software, the main advantage of the] Open Hardware strategy is the direct involvement of the community in the improvement and customization of systems and its possible derivatives. An immense added value also for key fields such as research and industry.

We are firmly convinced that high quality research  is not necessarily related to highly expensive proprietary products, characterized by closed-architecture. On the contrary, we believe that the Open Hardware is even better, since collaborative participation produces high-speed and high quality development.