Skip to Content
Arts and Sciences News and Events Logo

Joseph BelBruno '74 Professor and Entrepreneur to Highlight Chemistry and Biochemistry Symposium  

Headshot of Joseph BelBruno. x222The Rose Mercadante Chemistry and Biochemistry Seminar Series is pleased to present a seminar in conjunction with the 24th Chemistry and Biochemistry Departmental Symposium by Joseph BelBruno, Professor of Chemistry at Dartmouth College and Chief Technical Officer of FreshAir Sensor, LLC. The seminar is titled "Polymer Sensors: A Journey from the Academic Laboratory to a Commercial Product".

The seminar will be held on Tuesday April 23, 2019 from 5:45 – 7:00 p.m. in the Helen Lerner Amphitheater, Science and Technology Center. Refreshments are available at 5:30 p.m.

The 24th Annual Chemistry and Biochemistry Departmental Poster Session, the forerunner of the Petersheim Academic Exposition, will immediately follow the seminar in the Mary Ann and Pat Murray Atrium.

The path from an academic laboratory experiment to a product that can be successfully introduced to commercial users is littered with roadblocks. Ideal conditions in the lab and the expertise of the researchers ease the path to the academic journal publication. However, when the same device is released in the wild, unforeseen, and sometimes unimaginable, results occur. This talk will describe the laboratory experiments and chemistry used to develop a molecule-specific tobacco smoke sensor, initially proposed as a research tool for child exposure to parental smoking. The device eventually became the leading product of FreshAir Sensor, LLC and, with the addition of a marijuana-specific smoking sensor, is installed in hotels, rental housing and schools to eliminate smoking in areas where such activity is banned. The role (and the education) of the scientist in the formation of a viable company, which includes an extensive R&D effort in both chemistry and engineering, will be described.

Professor BelBruno is a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at Dartmouth College. He graduated with a B.S. degree in Chemistry from Seton Hall University in 1974. After a short interval in industry, he enrolled in graduate school and received the Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Rutgers University in 1980. Subsequent postdoctoral research at Princeton University involved theoretical studies of chemical reaction dynamics with a joint appointment in the Departments of Chemistry and Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. He joined the Dartmouth faculty in 1982, and early research focused on the spectroscopy of large molecules, leading to the use of lasers to deposit thin films and subsequently, since 2006, to thin film sensors and materials.

He served, for a time, as the Director of the Dartmouth Center for Nanomaterials. His sensor research is focused on the development of materials and complete sensing units targeted to a wide variety of targets. These target molecules include saccharide tumor markers, explosive residues, amino acids, and environmental pollutants. He has also developed solid phase extraction materials, based on the same polymer technology to reduce the levels of undesirable flavor components in foods and beverages, such as wine. He has worked with commercial companies under research agreements and has received support from diverse sources, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute, the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

Professor BelBruno has published more 140 peer reviewed papers and holds 12 patents in sensors and coatings. Joe co-founded FreshAir Sensor, LLC in 2013 and serves as Chief Technical Officer. FreshAir currently markets the only sensing systems to specifically detect tobacco and marijuana smoke in real time, providing rapid notification to property owners and preventing smoking in hotels, public housing and schools. A wide range of other sensors are currently under development at FreshAir Sensor, which hosts an active R&D program.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees with specializations in all areas of chemistry. Our unique research environment, including traditional full-time students and part-time students is designed to foster collaborations with industry and colleagues in other disciplines. The Rose Mercadante Seminar Series is named for Rose Mercadante, the departmental secretary for over 40 years, in honor of our alumni, her "boys and girls".

Categories: Research , Science and Technology

For more information, please contact:

  • Nicholas Snow
  • (973) 761-9035
Back to top