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Lalit Chordia Featured

9:40am EDT September 30, 2002
It's been a good year for Lalit Chordia.

The founder and president of Thar Technologies Inc., Chordia was selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration's Exporter of the Year for 2002 and was nominated for an award for entrepreneurial accomplishments from the Minority Enterprise Corp.

But a $1.9 million grant from the federal government's Advanced Technology Program could prove to be the most important award the company has received to date.

Thar Technologies, which designs, develops and manufactures supercritical fluid equipment used in applications as varied as dry cleaning and spice extraction, will attempt to design a low-cost, highly efficient system that uses carbon dioxide as a refrigerant to cool microelectronics systems. The technology could have applications in everything from home refrigerators to automotive air conditioning and missile guidance systems.

"We think the market for this product is humongous if we can solve this problem," says Chordia.

The rewards in the information technology field alone could prove handsome -- Intel Corp., Chordia says, produces 200 million microprocessors a year.

The wheels began turning when an automotive company approached Chordia a few years ago, asking if Thar could develop an auto air conditioning system employing carbon dioxide as the coolant. It applied for an ATP research grant to devise a system and was turned down, but Chordia was intrigued enough to take another swing at a grant.

The development of such a technology could have huge benefits. Unlike refrigerants like chlorofluorocarbons, carbon dioxide has minimal impact on the environment. And the capability to lower operating temperatures would allow microprocessors to operate more efficiently by dissipating heat and would extend their usable life.

Chordia says the project will spawn a spin-off company that will provide at least 20 new high-paying technical positions over the next three years. If the technology development is successful, a manufacturing facility could potentially bring dozens, if not hundreds, of jobs to Pittsburgh.

Chordia sees the first spin-off as just the beginning of a much bigger process: "Our strategy is to spin off a number of divisions that can stand by themselves, and the core company becomes an IPO factory." How to reach: Thar Technologies Inc., www.thartech.com; Advanced Technology Program, www.atp.nist.gov