Verbeck’s inventions include portable mass spectrometry and chemical sensors which can be used outside the lab to detect harmful chemicals. These can be used in medicine, environmentally or for defense and drug detection. This technology also led to the first FDA-approved breathalyzer for disease-detection through collaboration with the company InspectIR.
“It is truly an honor,” Verbeck said. “This is a devoted group of researchers that produce a tangible product or idea at the end of the day, to really see their research come to life, and I feel humble to be counted among them.”
Every December, the NAI selects inventors from around the world whose inventions have made a tangible benefit to society. The 2023 Class of Fellows includes 162 inventors from 35 states and 10 countries, representing 118 research institutions. They collectively boast over 4,600 U.S. patents.
Verbeck has also received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create devices for detecting other diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, that can be installed outdoors in any environment.
Wilbert Murillo, who worked as a graduate student in Verbeck’s lab, helped work on some of the inventions using mass spectrometry to detect drugs in different settings. He now works at AU as a research associate in Verbeck’s lab and is excited about the possibilities the technology allows for.
“The work is cutting-edge,” Murillo said. “Seeing what I am doing every day being applied to a real-world challenge is incredible.”
Aside from his accomplishments in the field, Murillo also credits Verbeck for his passion for the field of mass spectrometry and his mentorship of the next generation of chemists.
“He’s very passionate about helping the new generation,” Murillo said. “I would not be in this position today if it was not for his guidance. Not only is his research groundbreaking, but also his passion for the students.
Verbeck’s research continues to refine his inventions and create new applications for them. His latest patent involves remote smell, which are devices that contain odors that can be dispersed to make the subject perceive smells or to generate smells that are not actually present. This technology can be used in situations where the sense of smell is lost over time or in VR training where smells can be simulated to better create immersion.
“This will be a fun product to work on,” Verbeck said. “We are also taking to the skies with our chemical sensors on a new drone-based platform to help first responders at fires and scenes of chemical spills to identify the danger very rapidly.”