By GREGORY ZELLER //
The Greek goddess of safety may help you breathe a little easier in a crisis situation.
At least, Soteria Technologies – a Lindenhurst firm named for the goddess, who’s also said to provide deliverance from harm – might do it, if it’s able to fund the Oxxy/Gen, a revolutionary device designed to help a single user breathe while escaping a fire or other danger where air is hard to come by.
The idea of an emergency breathing apparatus is not revolutionary. Neither is the notion of a device that not only filters the air, but actually creates oxygen without need for oxygen tanks. Such technology has been around for a half-century and is commonplace in the mining industry, noted Soteria Technologies President Jeff Peterson.
Where Soteria breathes in new life is the size of its prototype apparatus. Weighing around a pound, the lightweight Oxxy/Gen is made specifically to deliver just a few minutes’ worth of breathable air – enough to escape a burning high-rise or dormitory, for instance – with lower production costs that enable affordability. Those miner apparatuses can cost $1,000 apiece or more, Peterson noted, but the Lindenhurst firm aims to mass-market its units for about $99 a pop.
“It’s the same exact technology that’s used in the mining industry, except those devices cost 10 times as much,” Peterson told Innovate LI. “Mel figured out that it could be much smaller, and that’s what he patented – a smaller version. Nobody can come down into our space.”
“Mel” is Mel Blum, Soteria Technologies’ scientific advisor, and the patent is one of 27 the longtime chemist has been awarded over the decades. The Oxxy/Gen incorporates a granular form of potassium superoxide – it looks like tiny pebbles, Peterson noted – that reacts to moisture. When humans exhale into the OxxyGen, the KO2 sucks up the carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, similar to the way trees create oxygen through photosynthesis.
That gives the KO2 breathers multiple advantages over standard “gas mask” filters, according to Peterson. Depending on what sort of contaminant might be burning in a fire, specific filters might not work – and even if they do, “you’re still breathing poor air,” Peterson said, since the fire is consuming all the local oxygen.
“But our device is self-contained,” he added. “What you breathe out goes into a contained bag, and nothing from the outside environment comes into the breathing system. It converts your carbon dioxide into oxygen, and you breathe that oxygen back.”
In addition to the mining industry, this technology has long been used by Navy SEALS. The self-contained devices don’t release any gases, meaning they create no bubbles when used underwater – a perfect application to hide stealthy subsurface activities.
Blum has long envisioned a portable life-saving version and actually formed Soteria Technologies as an LLC several years ago. But he didn’t make much headway on shrinking the technology to consumer-affordable proportions until he met Peterson.
The two first crossed paths at a 2013 networking event for inventors in search of financing, and Peterson – namesake of Huntington Station-based JS Peterson Business Group, which offers financial and operational consultations to small manufacturing companies – quickly realized Blum had a winner.
“He reached into his briefcase and had just one file in there,” Peterson recalled. “He said, ‘Read this tonight and call me in the morning,’ and that’s how it started.”
From there, the consultant called in some old friends, including engineers, materials experts and an astrophysicist from California, the only non-Long Islander in the fold. He also brought in Scott Schuler, a mechanical engineer with a quarter-century of marketing experience who would become Soteria Technologies’ vice president.
“They’re all professional friends,” Peterson noted. “Some I’ve worked with in the past. Some I’ve just gotten to know over the years.”
Just two years later, the Oxxy/Gen is ready to roll. Soteria has leased about 3,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Lindenhurst and will flip the switch before month’s end on a new website being built by Huntington Station digital marketing company Revamp Agency.
The principals have even pitched their prototype to the firefighting community, Peterson noted, which has expressed considerable interest.
“They have their big $10,000 air packs that are made to go into a fire, but they’re very interested in a five-minute version that they can stick on their masks when their air packs run out, so they can get out of the building,” he said. “They also like that they can hang a couple on their straps because they’re so small, so if they find somebody inside a burning building, they don’t have to share their oxygen to get them out.”
All that’s needed, Peterson added, is about $500,000 to cover the first production run and marketing costs. The partners have raised “a little bit” already and are talking to several potential investors, including a scheduled audience this week with the Long Island Angel Network.
Raising the half-million, the president noted, shouldn’t prove too difficult – and Soteria is already projecting to sell at least 250,000 units within three years of raising its $500,000 marker.
“There’s a really big market out there for escape respirators on the consumer level,” Peterson said. “People are already buying filter masks by the hundreds of thousands every year. And we have a disruptive technology, in that we’re not just a filter mask – we’re supplying air.”