Spectrex Corporation

Spectrex Corporation was founded in 1966 in Palo Alto, California and now operates a manufacturing, sales and laboratory facility in Redwood City, California. Over the last 42 years the company has developed and markets a wide range of unique environmental and analytical instruments. This led to the founding of Spectrex Corporation and sales of over one thousand Vreeland Spectroscope around the world. It is still available and is used in colleges and universities for analytical chemistry and mineralogy and by mining companies and prospectors.

Company details

493 Seaport Court, Suite 105 , Redwood City , CA 94063 USA

Locations Served

Business Type:
Industry Type:
Monitoring and Testing - Laboratory Equipment
Market Focus:
Globally (various continents)
Year Founded:

Beginnings and how it all started with Elemental Analysis

After emigrating from England in 1960, John Hoyte started as a process and development engineer with Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto California. Soon after, due to a suggestion by his Father, he visited a distant uncle, Dr. Fredrick Vreeland, who lived in Mill Valley only to find him nearly ninety years old but with a unique invention in his basement. In his 80s he had invented and patented a direct reading spectroscope for rapid elemental analysis but was now too old to develop it into a viable product. John also found that his Uncle Fred was a prolific inventor and had over fifty patents, mostly filed in the early 1900s. The most remarkable one, dated 1906, covered “undamped and sustained electrical oscillations”, the basis for AM and FM radio, the oscilloscope and the ensuing electronics. After some uncertainty, John made four Vreeland Spectroscopes in a friend’s garage and his first order came from the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington DC.

This led to the founding of Spectrex Corporation and sales of over one thousand Vreeland Spectroscope around the world. It is still available and is used in colleges and universities for analytical chemistry and mineralogy and by mining companies and prospectors.

Air Quality Products

In the early 1970s, through the acquisition of a miniature magnetic drive pump design from MIT, Spectrex entered the air quality field and started to develop and make a line of precision miniature pumps for environmental applications. As the result of a suggestion (and primitive cardboard model) by Fred Ottoboni of CalOSHA, Spectrex came out with the first known model of the Personal Air Sampler. It can be worn and monitors personal breathing environments. That cardboard model is proudly displayed in the corporate museum. The present PAS-500 is a little bigger than a pen and claims to be the smallest and easiest-to-wear, personal air sampler on the market.

More recently Spectrex has added a line of ozone monitors and calibrators and a unique, hand-held, six channel airborne particle counter that counts and sizes particles down to 0.3 um diameter.

Water Quality Products Particle Counting in Liquids

In the early 1980s Spectrex acquired from a two-man startup company in Palo Alto, the patent for a radical, new particle counter for liquids. One of them, Malcolm Ogle, had been the chief engineer at Royco, a startup in Menlo Park specializing in particle counting. He came up with a way of counting particles that did not require a flow cell. Quite simply, a laser counted and sized the particles in a liquid container by scanning through the glass walls. As Royco was not interested in the concept, Malcolm and his friend Luis Prahm started Protrotron in Luis’ garage. By the time Spectrex had acquired the patent it was an effective but bulky prototype, using a large helium-neon laser. Two generations later the Model PC-2200 Laser Particle Counter is beautifully compact, weighing only six pounds, uses a laser diode and can interface with any PC based computer. A portable version, the PC-2300 has many field applications such as water quality, oil monitoring, pharmaceutical inspection of small vials, cell growth research etc.

Users claim that it is the easiest particle counter on the market to operate and calibrate, as it provides three sealed calibration standards.

The Partascope is a simplified version that provides direct viewing by eye of the particles in a liquid container. It permits seeing particles down to 1-2 um diameter.

Water Analysis Service

In the mid 90s it became clear that the water filtration industry needed a quick, reliable service for testing filter efficiency. Spectrex was then set up to provide water analysis service which gives total particle counts and sizing from 1-100 µ ms in diameter and Total Suspended Solids. This service has now expanded to several other fields including waste water and storm water programs. Results are e-mailed to the end user on a “next day delivery” basis to provide quick turnaround.

Water Testing Kits

Spectrex has also added a unique line of water quality testing kits which cover over sixty tests ranging from Acidity to Zinc. Included are tests for turbidity, free and total chlorine and formaldehyde.

Providing a Secure Environment

Spectrex now markets three unique Explosives Detectors. The XD-2 is a hand-held colorimetric detector which detects over 40 different explosives, is ruggedized and weighs less than two pounds. One of its most outstanding features is that it does not show false positives. It is used worldwide by the military, police and airport and other security agents for quick, reliable testing.