Founders & Leadership

George Linscott, Tim Swager, Eric Keller, JT Mann


MIT Department of Chemistry


Advanced Materials

Chemical sensing technologies to track and quantify the invisible.

There is knowledge hidden in the air we breathe — knowledge in the form of invisible chemical compounds that can signal profound things like danger and authenticity. But these compounds remain under-recognized and this knowledge, underutilized. Until recently, the technology to extract data from gaseous chemical compounds was limited by sensor sensitivity and specificity, or sheer size and price. 

The carbon nanotube (CNT) technology pioneered by C2Sense has forced us to rethink the capabilities and applications of gas sensing technology. Tiny, inexpensive, efficient, and highly selective, the company’s CNT sensors will enable a future of ubiquitous mobile gas sensing — a future in which experts in medicine, agriculture, and security will be empowered to make the world a healthier and safer place. 

C2Sense was founded by Tim Swager, John D. MacArthur Professor in Chemistry at MIT, Eric Keller, and Jan Schnorr. The core technology, a product of Swager’s lab, allows modified carbon nanotubes to react in highly sensitive ways to specific compounds. Unlike other CNT-based sensors, the C2Sense tech has unique molecular selectors that enable levels of selectivity second to only gas chromatographs, which are exponentially larger, more expensive, and reside as stationary equipment in specialized labs. 

 With their unique combination of size, selectivity, and efficiency, C2Sense sensors can be easily integrated into existing industrial platforms, giving them new or enhanced capabilities. Suddenly the industrial safety, fire detection, automotive, environmental, and HVAC-R industries have the opportunity to provide their customers with products that can detect hazardous compounds, at lower amounts, with greater accuracy and speed than ever before. 

But supercharging existing sensor platforms is just one of the market opportunities C2Sense is pursuing. 

Each year, millions of people are exposed to potentially harmful counterfeit goods — from pharmaceuticals to industrial additives and even luxury items. Many of these counterfeits are difficult to identify because of their fidelity and opaque supply chains. C2Sense hopes its technology called AuthenTagsTM will eliminate the trade of counterfeit goods by empowering manufacturers, distributors, and customers to confirm the authenticity of a product from the factory floor to the final destination.  

It works like this: a manufacturer creates a custom compound that is integrated into its products — whether those products are Swiss watches or heart medication. This compound serves as an invisible signature that is impossible to forge. Once the product leaves the factory, a handheld device equipped with a C2Sense sensor checks the compound’s chemical makeup against the formula provided by the manufacturer. If it matches, the product is authentic. If not, it is counterfeit. 

One can easily imagine a consumer with a C2Sense device clipped onto a smartphone, confirming the genuineness of goods before they are purchased or once they are delivered. Or a near future in which C2Sense sensor technology is embedded in smartphones themselves, giving everybody with a phone the ability to verify a product’s origin and authenticity. 

More than simply engineering a better gas sensor, C2Sense is building pervasive, IOT-capable technology that will unlock new dimensions of data. And the technology’s inherent flexibility — from enhancing industrial gas safety monitors to confirming the authenticity of a luxury handbag — will help inform the way we live all facets of our lives. 

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