Opsis blog

Once Upon a Time – the Founding of OPSIS

Once Upon a Time – the Founding of OPSIS

35 years ago, in October 1985, the “Opsis Aktiebolag” (or just “OPSIS”) was registered as a private limited company. By that time, the two founders and owners Leif Unéus and Svante Wallin had a vision of using spectroscopy as a tool for measurements of gaseous pollution in ambient air. They even had an almost working instrument! What preceded the registration? As in many other cases, it was a matter of a series of coincidences.

Around 1980, the Division of Atomic Physics at the Lund University (the Faculty of Engineering, LTH) in Sweden hired a new director, professor Sune Svanberg. Professor Svanberg had done a fair share of research at the corresponding institution in Gothenburg (Chalmers University of Technology), but was now ready to run his own department. Professor Svanberg brought and initiated several lines of research that was new to Lund, including research on detection of molecules in the atmosphere.

At about the same time, the two youngsters Leif Unéus and Svante Wallin had independently started their studies in Engineering Physics at the Faculty of Engineering in Lund, aiming at Master of Science degrees. They both happened to turn to the Atomic Physics department to do their compulsory dissertation work, and they both chose to continue as Ph.D. students at that department.

One of the topics professor Svanberg happened to choose to do research on was the application of a method called differential optical absorption spectroscopy (“DOAS”, further discussed in this blog article) for detection of trace levels of gaseous pollutants in ambient air. Research in this field had already been done for a few years at other institutions, in particular at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) by U. Platt and D. Perner, but there was for sure more to investigate. After some work on other topics, Leif and Svante was assigned to the group in Lund doing the DOAS research. We are now at around 1984. As at many other institutions, the group was somewhat loosely manned, from time to other including individuals such as Hans Edner, Bo Galle, Marcus Aldén and Anders Sunesson, several of whom later on would have successful academic careers.

Anyway, the research went well, and a first paper on the topic titled “Differential optical absorption spectroscopy system used for atmospheric mercury monitoring” was submitted and eventually published in Applied Optics in February 1986. However, by that time, Svante and Leif had already hooked up and “seen the light” in an entrepreneurial spirit – there had to be business in this! So, Svante and Leif took some deep breaths and turned into a commercial path, already before their first research paper on DOAS was published.

The first (and possibly only) academic research paper on DOAS with both Leif Unéus and Svante Wallin as co-authors.

In 1985 and 1986, the OPSIS company was formed. There was for sure a lot to do. The first premises were found at the Ideon Research Park adjacent to the Faculty of Engineering campus in Lund. Funding was secured from a local venture capital company named Malmöhus Invest AB, MIAB. This was at a time when very few had heard of VC:s, but it turned out to be a long and fruitful cooperation for both parties. And the design of the very first device was admittedly “inspired” by the work already done at Atomic Physics.

The name OPSIS was proposed by a friend of the founders, at that time studying theology and languages at the University of Lund. The word has its origin in classic Greek. It means “visual strength”, a word well suited for a name of a company built around the emission, absorption, and detection of light. The OPSIS logo was designed by a well-known art director at an advertising agency. It was submitted for registration in late 1986, and it has remained unchanged since then.

From then to now, fast-forward: OPSIS has helped the world understand air pollution and improve the air we breathe for 35 years. OPSIS is today a thriving company with a multi-million dollar revenue, about 100 employees, many sub-suppliers, and there are well over 50 international representatives helping OPSIS doing business all around the globe.

Please don’t hesitate to contact OPSIS or its representatives if you wish to acquire world-class gas monitoring systems for ambient air pollution, industrial emissions, or process control!