• Alumnus Thanked for Saving "Thousands of Lives"
Jack Driscoll and his hand-held photoionization detector (Photo courtesy of Cape Cod Times)

7/13/2011

Inventor Jack Driscoll has helped make the world a safer place, an accomplishment that was recognized by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society, which honored him recently with its Outstanding Achievement Award.

Driscoll, a Suffolk University alumnus, invented the first hand-held photoionization detector.

“Thank you personally for the thousands of lives you have saved,” said Dave Dahlstrom, a contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency, during the awards ceremony at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference in Portland, Oregon.

“That comment made me feel better than receiving the award,” said Driscoll, who received an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Suffolk University in 1965 and an honorary degree from the University in 1993.

Device meaasures chemical levels

In simple terms, a photoionization detector, or PID, uses an ultraviolet lamp to ionize organic compounds that are collected in an ion chamber. Its purpose is to measure low levels of organic compounds.

“I would describe it as a very simple and sensitive device, much like a smoke detector,” said Driscoll, whose hand-held instrument detects on-site harmful chemicals and is mainly used in the chemical industry.

Infatuated with science since he was 11 years old, Driscoll, now 68, is the founder, manager and CEO of PID Analyzers, a company that manufactures and develops instruments for air, water and process control. Based in Sandwich, Mass., PID Analyzers has sold more than 50,000 detectors worldwide.

Driscoll has written more than 80 articles on photoionization and has given more than 1,000 talks on the subject. In addition, he has been issued more than 40 U.S. and foreign patents.

University involvement

He has remained active in the University community as a member of the CAS Dean’s Advisory Board and the CAS Engineering Advisory Board.

Driscoll received the Suffolk University Alumni Achievement Award in 1996, the Outstanding Alumni Award in 1995, and the Outstanding Alumni Ambassador Award in 1992. He served as the class marshal during the undergraduate commencement ceremony in 1990, celebrating 25 years as a Suffolk alumnus.

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