Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE) is an Engineering Research Center (ERC) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States. It was launched on May 1, 2006 as part of NSF's larger program of ERCs. Largely based at Princeton University and Rice University, initial funding of the center is $15 million in its first year, with an additional $40 million allotted over the next 10 years.
MIRTHE's goal is to develop mid-infrared ( λ ~ 3 to 30 μm) optical trace gas sensing systems based on new technologies such as quantum cascade lasers or quartz enhanced photo-acoustic spectroscopy, with the ability to detect minute amounts of chemicals found in the environment or atmosphere, emitted from spills, combustion, or natural sources, or exhaled in human breath. Through its fundamental research and prototyping in materials, sources, detectors, sensing systems, and application testbeds, MIRTHE addresses a broad range of technologies and industry sectors - semiconductors, test and measurement, medical equipment manufacturers, chemical and petrochemical, and homeland security - as well as government labs and hospitals. MIRTHE provides an interdisciplinary and practice-oriented education for a competitive and diverse U.S. workforce and seeks to educate the public about chemical sensing applied to applications in environment, homeland security, and health.
It was proposed and is currently headed by Dr. Claire Gmachl of Princeton University. She envisions it to become a center of collaboration, combining the work of several professors and both graduate and undergraduate students from the partnered universities, which in addition to Princeton include Texas A&M University, Rice University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Johns Hopkins University and the City College of New York. In addition, the center is taking a novel approach of attaining funding both from NSF and by membership support from collaborative industries.
Claire Gmachl, director of MIRTHE states, "The sensors we are creating will be portable and easy to use. Today's state-of-the-art sensors are very sensitive, but require an expert to operate and are bulky and expensive. MIRTHE's vision is to make sensors with the same or better level of sensitivity at a fraction of the size and cost."