Aerodyne Research, Inc. 

ARI Mobile Air Quality Lab Overlooking Mexico City

  I joined Aerodyne Research, Inc. (ARI) in July 1971, a few days after passing my doctoral final oral exam.  The company, founded by two physicists the previous fall, was focused on understanding the spectral and radar signatures of strategic weapons systems and their operating environments.  As ARI's lone chemist, embedded with five physicist and aeronautic engineering colleagues, I was tasked with modeling the plasma chemistry of reentry vehicle wakes, the infrared, visible and ultraviolet spectra of rocket exhaust plumes, and the spectral emissions of the “disturbed” atmosphere (just after a nuclear detonation).  I was also tasked with tutoring the senior founder's children in high school chemistry and advising his wife on methods to remove stains from favorite sweaters.  1971 was the height of the severe “guns & butter” recession triggered by simultaneously funding the Great Society and the Vietnam War and jobs for new PhDs were very scarce.  Since I had a wife, two young children and large stack of student loans from both MIT and Princeton, I was grateful to have the job.
     As I gained more knowledge about the contract research world I was able to write and win R&D proposals on a wider range of chemically relevant projects, including chemical lasers, high energy rocket propellants and coal-fired thermal plasmas for magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) power generation.  However, my favorite new area was the chemistry of the “less disturbed” atmosphere, starting with the kinetics of the mesospheric sodium nightglow (~90 km altitude), then the loss of stratospheric ozone (~20 km), and eventually the pollutant emissions sources and chemical kinetics driving acid rain, photochemical smog and climate change (0-10 km).  All of which enabled us to hire more chemists and chemical engineers.
     In 1985 I arranged financing to buy out ARI's senior founder and have served since as President and CEO.  We have focused our efforts in three areas we believe are critical to our nation's well being: atmospheric and environmental sustainability, energy technology, and military remote sensing technology. Half of our income comes from R&D projects focused on these areas; the other half comes from advanced spectroscopic and mass spectrometric instruments we have invented and developed for our research needs and now provide for environmental and energy research and monitoring centers worldwide.  A majority of our R&D projects are collaborative efforts involving academic and/or national laboratory partners. Over three quarters of our instrument sales are outside the U.S.

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Chuck Kolb