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Tool made in Syracuse being used by Nobel Peace Prize winner

Ryan Delaney
Chris Russell, a technician at INFICON in East Syracuse, assembles a HAPSITE gas detector.

With a few snaps and screws, the HAPSITE is ready to be shipped from the floor of INFICON's facility in East Syracuse and deployed as a gas and chemical warfare detector around the world.

It's just one of the products that comes out of the research and production facility in central New York, but this one has a new and very well respected client.

HAPSITE is short for Hazardous Air Pollutants on Site. The hard plastic machine, which is slightly larger than a suitcase, is a portable gas chromatograph mass spectrometer.

INFICON recently filled an order for the portable chemical detection systems from theOrganisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The OPCW was called in shortly after the U.S. and Russia brokered a deal for Syria to give up its chemical weapons stockpile stockpile. It also won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts.

The HAPSITE device works by taking in air samples and breaking them down into smaller and smaller parts.

"We take these different fragments as a fingerprint of a chemical. And we have a library on board so the fingerprint of the chemical matches the library and produces an identification," explains product manager Amy Arnold. "So something completely unknown can be identified by our product."

It's able to process those results in about 10 minutes, which company officials say is an invaluable quality.

"So it identifies and quantifies and does it extremely accurately, extremely reliably, so you can basically take your gas mask off," said president Peter Maier on a tour of INFICON's facility. "That’s really the key test, do you trust your instrument enough to take your mask off?"

While INFICON is a global company, the HAPSITE was developed and built entirely in East Syracuse. It was first designed 15 years ago and is now in its fifth generation.

The U.S. military is another major client. For Arnold and the rest of the team working on the HAPSITE project, knowing a Nobel Peace Prize winner is using their product is gratifying.

"That’s what our whole goal is, to make sure we have a piece of equipment that somebody can use so that we can make our world safe," she said. "Simple as that; really is."

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail