A New Approach to Clean Environments

By Joe Cestari, Chief Operating Officer, NoviSphere

I’ve always been fascinated by technology and its ability to positively impact people’s quality of life. After earning my engineering degree, I was drawn to tech companies with this same focus and objective. Along the way, I became very interested in the holistic approach to the supply chain: building an ecosystem that establishes the most efficient and effective way to design, manufacture, and supply products and services for life-science or microelectronics products that can help solve world problems is highly valuable to me.

This interest has come into play in various positions I’ve held, and it ultimately led to my becoming part of NoviSphere. The notion for creating a new kind of company focused on clean air and environments came about several years ago – long before the Covid-19 pandemic erupted. At the time, while I was an advisor for Integrated Engineering Services (IES), I met up with Paul Jenkins, the founder and CEO of Bancroft Architects & Engineers (BAE), and Phil Lasarsky, CFO of BAE. Paul founded Bancroft in 2009 to design and engineer world-class health-care facilities for veterans. We began to talk about developing ultraclean environments, something that Paul had also discussed with former NASA astronaut Paul Lockhart, who also had a strong interest in the subject based on his own background and experience. This shared mindset was the germ of the idea that evolved into NoviSphere, of which Paul Lockhart became CEO.

Currently, the market for clean environments is highly fragmented. Companies that need to build and operate them face a long road of designing, subcontracting, and tapping multiple resources to integrate a solution that meets their needs. Our vision is for NoviSphere to become a true single source for creating highly rarified environments. As a turnkey provider of design, integration, autonomous monitoring and sustainment services, we’ll eliminate customers’ need to hire separate companies for each of these steps. Instead, our team will consult with them to develop and manage their projects from end to end, using a standard offering of products or one customized for their specific application. When complete, they will have an environment certified to deliver ultraclean, particulate- and pathogen-free air.

We intend to achieve this vision within five years, and we have a plan in place to ensure that we get there – starting with our first product, which we rolled out last week with the public launch of the company. NoviSphere™ PE 254 is our proprietary system that uses 254nm germicidal UV-C light sealed inside the unit to kill up to 99.99% of airborne viruses, bacteria and mold spores, continuously monitoring and changing room air up to four times an hour. Our system doesn’t just trap pathogens, it eradicates them, and it keeps the air circulating better than any other product that I’ve seen.

We took a holistic approach to designing NoviSphere PE 254 to ensure that we could deliver the best technology with the highest integrity, while never losing sight of how the product fits into our larger vision. To confirm that it could do what we needed it to, we enlisted the University of Minnesota to conduct independent tests, which verified that 99.99% eradication figure, and we’re proud to be able to stand behind those testing results. Moreover, we expect further testing in the coming year to validate NoviSphere PE 254’s effectiveness to 99.9999999%, or 1 part per billion. This will be a huge benefit for customers – even a 0.0001% failure rate sounds small, but with a lethal virus load, it’s more than enough to be fatal.

It’s exciting to be part of a company that is making this kind of game-changing technology available. Even more gratifying for me personally is the opportunity to participate in helping bring to life complete rarified environments that help keep people healthy and safe. Our next offering, which we look forward to sharing with you in the coming year, will take us further toward this goal. While ambitious, it’s one we’re confident we can bring to fruition, thanks to the talents and abilities of NoviSphere’s team of engineering, management and marketing experts.


The Air Down Here

By Paul Lockhart, CEO, NoviSphere

I grew up watching America’s quest to do what President Kennedy challenged our nation in 1961 to accomplish: land a man on the moon and safely return him to earth by the end of that decade. The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs achieved that goal in 1969, with Neil Armstrong stepping off of the lunar lander Eagle and placing the first human footprints on another celestial body. The dramatic decade of rockets, televised launches and recoveries, high-tech equipment, and national pride offered everything a young boy seeking adventure could want. At age six, I knew I wanted to be an astronaut.

After I earned my graduate degree in aerospace engineering, I joined the Air Force to become a fighter and test pilot. In 1996, I achieved my goal: I became one of the fortunate few selected by NASA for the astronaut program.

Space flight is exciting, but also difficult and dangerous. Arguably, the most basic, most important problem to solve in space is that of maintaining clean, breathable air. During my two missions as pilot of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, I operated a number of the critical systems during launch, on-orbit and during return to earth that underscored this challenge.

For one, on-orbit, I was responsible for the lithium hydroxide (LiOH) canisters used to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the shuttle’s breathing air. As you can imagine, having seven astronauts breathing in Endeavour’s oxygen supply and exhaling the CO2, with no outside source of fresh air, created a dangerous build-up of CO2 within the orbiter. We used the LiOH canisters to scrub the CO2 from the shuttle’s air supply. My job, in conjunction with NASA’s ground engineers, was to properly track the canisters and swap them out on a daily basis to maintain good, clean air that allowed our crew to operate at maximum efficiency.

I also served as the Intra-Vehicular Astronaut (IVA) for six spacewalks, responsible for suiting up the two astronauts conducting the spacewalks and performing work outside of the International Space Station or the shuttle. The IVA is responsible for the health of the two other astronauts and helps them perform their work by continuously observing, operating checklists and coordinating their activities safely and efficiently. Again, air supply is a critical consideration – getting astronauts ready to exit the space station or shuttle is a long process, most of which entails preparing their bodies to breath clean air at the proper pressure. During spacewalks, their air supply is closely monitored, and, just as with the shuttle or space station, the CO2 must be scrubbed to prevent a build-up in their space suits. During ingress back into the shuttle or station at the end of the spacewalks, the whole process must be reversed, and the astronauts must slowly acclimate themselves to the shuttle or station air supply.

I took to heart the lessons I learned from these missions regarding the critical nature of maintaining clean air as I moved on to pursue new career ventures.

After having returned to the Air Force for several years to support the nation in the difficult period post-9/11, I retired from the military in 2007 and entered the private sector. At Vencore, which provided technical engineering and services to NASA and the Air Force, I served as senior VP, leading the space technology team. Having benefited personally from the efforts of thousands of devoted NASA support personnel, my job at Vencore allowed me to give back, helping enable younger NASA astronauts to fly and complete the International Space Station.

I left Vencore in 2015 and joined PEMDAS, launched in 2008 by my wife, Mary Lockhart, to deliver atmospheric sensors and Big Data analytics to the Department of Defense – specifically, units that operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), i.e., drones. As a former acting director of the Air Force Weather Agency, Mary is a proponent of using atmospheric information to better support drones’ remote or autonomous operation. This cutting-edge work involves significant research and development, which, as director of engineering, I was able to facilitate using my aerospace, flight test and research skills, overseeing development of atmospheric air sensors and satellite antennas.

In this position, I further advanced my understanding of how pollutants, particulates and aerosols contaminate air environments. Moreover, I gained appreciation for what it takes to run a small business, including the effort, persistence and determination needed to overcome challenges, grow and mature. What I learned at PEMDAS will serve me extremely well at NoviSphere.

My experiences in the military, government service and the private sector have taught me that leadership built on integrity and trust is key to the success of any venture. Solid leadership is integral to an organization’s cohesion and its ability to deliver goods and services that the consumer trusts and respects. I am pleased to join forces with our COO, Joe Cestari, and Cindy Egnarski, our director of business development and marketing, in leading NoviSphere. With their knowledge and emphasis on developing products of the highest quality, safety and ease of use, our company will become known an international leader in delivering turnkey, rarified, ultraclean environments, providing safety and security wherever it’s needed.