Opening up new science with devices that control electrical power. MIT News

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Mo Mirvakili PhD ’17 was in the middle of an experiment as a postdoc at MIT when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Faced with limited access to laboratory facilities, he decided to convert his bathroom into a makeshift laboratory. By arranging a piece of plywood over a bathtub to support power sources and measurement devices, he conducted a study that was later published science roboticsOne of the top magazines in the field.

Adverse circumstances made for a good story, but the truth is that it didn’t take a global pandemic to force Mirvakili to build the equipment needed to run his experiments. Even when working in some of the most well-funded laboratories in the world, they needed to link together equipment to bring their experiments to life.

“My journey reflects a broader truth: with determination and resourcefulness, many of us can achieve remarkable things,” he says. “There are a lot of people who don’t have access to laboratories yet who have great ideas. We have to make it easier for them to bring their experiments to life.”

That’s the idea behind Seron Electronics, a company founded by Mirvakili to democratize scientific experimentation. Ceron develops scientific instruments that accurately source and measure power, characterize materials, and integrate the data into a customizable software platform.

By making sophisticated experiments more accessible, Ceron aims to foster a new wave of innovation in fields as diverse as microelectronics, clean energy, optics and biomedicine.

“Our goal is to become one of the leaders in providing accurate and affordable solutions to researchers,” says Mirvakili. “This approach extends beyond academia to include companies, governments, nonprofits, and even high school students. With Ceron’s equipment, anyone can perform high-quality experiments, regardless of their background or resources.

Constantly feeling the need for electricity

Mirvakili earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, followed by a PhD in mechanical engineering under MIT professor Ian Hunter, which included developing a class of high-performance thermal artificial muscles, including nylon artificial muscles. During that time, Mirvakili needed to precisely control the amount of energy flowing through his experimental setup, but he couldn’t find anything online that could solve his problem.

“I had access to all kinds of high-end equipment in our laboratory and department,” Mirvakili recalls. “It’s all the latest, cutting-edge stuff. But I had to connect all these external devices together for my work.

After completing his PhD, Mirvakili joined the laboratory of Institute Professor Bob Langer as a postdoc, where he worked directly with Langer on an entirely different problem in biomedical engineering. In Langer’s famously prolific laboratory, he watched researchers struggle to control temperatures at the microscopic level for a device that was encapsulating drugs.

Mirvakili realized that researchers were ultimately grappling with the same set of problems: the need to precisely control electric current, voltage, and power. These are also the problems Mirvakili has seen in his recent research on energy storage and solar cells. After speaking to researchers at conferences around the world to confirm the widespread need for it, he started Ceron Electronics.

Ceron calls the first version of its products the SE Programmable Power Platform. The platform allows users to source and measure precisely defined quantities of electrical voltage, current, power and charge through a desktop application with minimal signal interference or noise.

The device can be used to study things like semiconductor devices, actuators and energy storage devices, or to accurately charge batteries without harming their performance.

The instrument can also be used to study the performance of materials because it can measure how the material responds to precise electrical stimulation at high resolution, and for quality control because it can test for chips and flag problems. Is.

The use cases are diverse, but Seron’s overarching goal is to enable more innovation faster.

“Because our system is so intuitive, you reduce the time it takes to get results,” Mirvakili says. “You can set it up in less than five minutes. It is plug-and-play. “Researchers tell us this makes things happen a lot faster.”

new frontiers

one in recent paper Co-authored by Mirvakili with MIT research associate Ehsan Haghighat, Ceron’s device provided continuous power to a thermal artificial muscle that integrated machine learning to give it a type of muscle memory. In another study not involving Mirvakili, a non-profit research organization used Cerone’s device to identify a new, sustainable sensor material, which they are in the process of commercializing.

The many uses for the machines have come as a surprise to Cerrone’s team, and they hope to see a new wave of applications when they release a cheaper version. portable version Cerrone’s machines this summer. This may include the development of new bedside monitors for patients that can detect diseases, or the development of remote sensors for field work.

Mirvakili believes that part of the beauty of Ceron’s devices is that people at the company don’t have to dream up experiments themselves. Instead, they can focus on providing powerful scientific tools and let the research community decide on the best ways to use them.

“Because of the size and cost of this new instrument, it will really open up possibilities for researchers,” Mirvakili says. “In my view, the applications are truly unimaginable and endless.”

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