Awarding Innovation: The Pittcon® 2013 Editors’ Awards

Pittcon® offers many different award ceremonies for outstanding scientific achievement to members of the scientific community; however, there is only one award for innovations in instrumentation. The prestigious Pittcon Editors’ Awards are becoming more and more popular each year as exhibiting companies vie for the Gold, Silver, or Bronze. These independent awards, which represent the results of an informal poll of leading editors in the industry, have become an important feature of Pittcon, the world’s largest annual conference and exposition for laboratory science.

Pittcon organizers and onsite press room staff totally support this endeavor by providing the venue and promotion for the awards, but have no involvement in the actual process. The entire process, from nominations and voting to the award selections, are completely run by the journalists. Instrument News Editorial Board Member Eileen Skelley Frame observed that she gets pleasure out of finding new equipment—“When you see it, you know it!”

The Editors’ Awards, established in 1996 by Dr. Gordon Wilkinson, Managing Editor of Analytical Instrument Industry Report (later Instrumenta), were established because of the challenge that journalists faced to effectively cover the exposition given the enormity of the event. The journalists believed they could do a better job of covering Pittcon by working collectively than by trying to do it all individually. This initiative would also prove to give the press a cohesive voice and enhance the relationship between the media and exhibiting companies. The awards are not funded by any organization; the expenses, such as the cost of the plaques which were originally designed by Gordon Wilkinson, are covered by the judging editors.

The award process is very straightforward. For a product to be considered for the award, the requirements are 1) it must be the first time it is on display at a Pittcon exposition, and 2) it must be a functioning instrument. Typically, winning products feature innovations in technology or industrial design or may enable new analytical applications. During the four-day exposition, accredited media representatives, of whom there are more than 150 per year from all over the world, can be seen navigating the crowds, walking with purpose in and out of numerous booths, moving up and down the 10-foot aisles, and evaluating hundreds of new products from leading companies. Each press member is invited to submit up to three new products on a nomination form provided on registration in the onsite Media Center. On Wednesday, the next-to-the-last day of the show, editors are invited to attend a judging session where the entries undergo an intense review process before the winners are selected.

Figure 1 – Senova CEO Lee Leonard (left) accepting the Gold Award from Instrument News Editor Stefan Fritsch.

Gold Award: pHit™ pH System

This year’s Gold recipient was California-based Senova Systems (www. for the pHit™ pH System (see Figure 1). The pHit Handheld Scanner is the world’s first calibration-free pH meter. Its entirely new and unique technology platform incorporates an advanced sensor and electronics into a novel product design that eliminates glass electrodes, significantly enhances usability, and reduces the cost of ownership compared to traditional pH meters. Immediate applications for this product include life sciences, food, and environmental; future variations will serve process and medical applications.

Senova’s CEO Lee Leonard stated, “We are honored to be the recipient of the 2013 Pittcon Editors’ Gold Award. We were pleased that the editors recognized the potential for our technology to both improve the day-to-day lives of technicians and scientists and also enable pH measurement where it has not been done before.”

Figure 2 – Silver Award presented by John Hare of Instrument News (center) to Robert Hart, President (left), and Brian C. DiPaolo, Principal Scientist, of Optofluidics.

Silver Award: NanoTweezers

Silver was awarded to Optofluidics ( for the molecular NanoTweezers, which attaches to standard microscopes (see Figure 2). With the flip of a switch, the system allows nanomanipulation of individual cells, nucleic acids, viruses, carbon nanotubes, metal nanoparticles, and some proteins. NanoTweezers feature the company’s patented chip-based photonic resonance trapping technology.

Bronze Award: Pie-in-a-Box™ and multigas analysis platform

Tied for the Bronze Award were Ireland-based Pie Photonics ( for the Pie-in-a-Box™ passive interferometer engine, and Analytical Pixels Technology SAS (APIX; for its breakthrough multigas analyzer.

Figure 3 – Accepting the Bronze Award for Pie Photonics is CEO and Founder Dominic Murphy.

Pie™ technology is the Swiss Army Knife of optical measurement. It is a portable, entirely passive interferometer system that has no moving parts or scanning elements. The applications of interferometer technologies are immense, and can possibly be categorized into three main categories: metrology, spectrometry, and the combination of metrology and spectrometry. Interferometer technologies give access to the measurement of temporal and spectral phases, frequencies, and amplitude values. This combination of measurement capabilities makes interferometers extremely powerful measurement tools.

When asked about the value of the award to his company, CEO and Founder Dominic Murphy commented, “Pie Photonics is delighted to have won the Pittcon Editors’ Bronze Award 2013 [see Figure 3]. As a start-up company, the acclaim and exposure that accompany this award are critically important in raising our profile and bringing us to the attention of new customers and new application spaces. We want to particularly thank all the editors who were impressed with and voted for our technology.”

APIX’s nanoscale silicon technology is the first of its kind in the gas chromatography space (see Figure 4). This technology allows miniaturized GC systems that have extreme sensitivity, very fast analysis times, less maintenance, and lower costs to be built. This makes it possible for the APIX GC systems to be used in many new applications, where it was not previously practical to use GCs.

Figure 4 – Bronze Award presented by Dr. Robert Stevenson, Editor of Separation Science for American Laboratory/Labcompare (left), to Elie Braun, Exhibits Manager for APIX.

For example, because the compact MAX-ONE is made as an ATEX (explosion-proof) system, it can be put directly on the pipe for process monitoring. This is very appealing for refineries because they no longer have to run lines from their pipes to a central location, and they can monitor in near real-time directly on their pipes.


Mention of the Pittcon Editors’ Awards is often seen in a company’s marketing and promotional materials for the winning product. When asked to comment on the value of the Editors’ Award to an exhibitor, Dr. Robert Stevenson, Editor of Separation Science for American Laboratory/Labcompare, stated, “These [awards] validate a company’s leadership ability in developing instrumentation and products.” He added, “Innovation is a key competitive property…it motivates internal people to create solutions, and awards are a key measure of that success.”

Marian Nardozzi is Senior Marketing Communications Specialist, The Pittsburgh Conference, 300 Penn Center Blvd., Ste. 332, Pittsburgh, PA 15235, U.S.A.; tel.: 412-825-3220, ext. 203; fax: 412-825- 3224; e-mail: