WSU startup receives research grant

By Karen Hunt, Office of Research

Klar Scientific, a startup company launched by Matthew McCluskey, a physicist at Washington State University, received a $740,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase-II grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue the research and development of a new affordable and easy-to-use microscope.

Klar Scientific designs and manufactures an innovative spectroscopic confocal optical profile (COP) microscope, which collects more information about materials in less time and at a lower cost than what is currently on the market. With this new funding, Klar Scientific can begin transitioning the COP microscope from the lab bench to prototypes with market-ready features and performance. Klar is working closely with WSU Technical Services to develop the cutting-edge equipment.

“The overall objective of the research in phase II is to develop a portable prototype COP microscope with optimized hardware, packaging, and acquisition and analysis software. We are grateful for continuing NSF support of our research and our vision to provide customers with the first affordable, bench-side spectroscopic measurement instruments for their materials and device research,” said Rick Lytel, CEO of Klar Scientific.

McCluskey was inspired to form the company while studying miniscule defects on the surface of a sample with a confocal microscope. He was having a difficult time gathering enough data with the tool, so he decided to replace it with a custom-built microscope that used an off-the-shelf digital CCD camera instead of the more expensive light detector and optics used in conventional confocal microscopes.

McCluskey’s invention quickly proved to be a much more efficient way to gather data. Teaming up with Lytel, an adjunct physics professor at WSU and startup specialist based in Silicon Valley, the two researchers founded Klar Scientific and brought Slade Jokela, principal scientist, on board. The three researchers participated in WSU’s eight-week Innovation Corps program, where they received financial support to meet with industry experts and potential customers to get feedback on their product.

“For the first time, researchers everywhere will be able to purchase an affordable, portable microscope that can provide spectroscopic maps of their samples,” said McCluskey. “The images obtained by the microscope are outstanding and have already led to published articles and strong commercial interest.

Klar Scientific intends to become a major supplier of the COP instruments to research and development labs in academia, industry and government.

For more information about Klar Scientific, visit their website.

Media Contact:

  • Karen Hunt, public relations coordinator, Office of Research, 206-219-2427,

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