Centice, utilizing sensor technology developed with the help of $20 million in federal grants at Duke University, rolled out its first product, announced $3 million in venture funding and a new chief executive officer on Tuesday.

Centice, once known as Optopo, was founded in 2003 as a spin-off from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering and the university’s Fitzpatrick Center for Photonics and Communications Center. The company is not a surprise to entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Centice won the Duke “Start-Up Challenge” this spring, receiving the $50,000 first prize.

The core of its technology is so-called computational smart sensor, which helps provide superfine resolutions. Centice’s technology offers “the power to discover more,” according to its web site.

The Aurora Funds and Novak Biddle Venture Partners led the A round financing. Centice said the funds would be used to hire additional staff and to bring products to market through various partnerships.

Steve Kaye, a veteran of the sensor industry, is the new CEO. Kaye served as president of GTCO CalCamp, a provider of position-sensing systems such as digital whiteboards. Kaye also was a vice president of corporate development at Ciena and worked earlier at Hewlett-Packard and Westinghouse’s Defense Electronics Center.

“Steve brings relevant leadership skills and operating experience to our world-class technical team,” said Steve Fredrick, partner at Novak Biddle, in a statement.

Centice’s first product released for evaluation is a spectrometer designed to produce enhanced measurement sensitivity at a reduced size and costs. Spectrometers are used to perform chemical analysis at a molecular level.

“Centice will have a wide impact on several markets, particularly rapidly emerging biomedical applications where the combination of science and sensing is driving important discoveries,” said Scott Albert, general partner at Aurora.

Centice is also working on enhancements to digital imaging and position-tracking sensors as part of security networks.

Three co-founders of Centice, all of whom worked at the Fitzpatrick Center, remain with the firm. Michael Sullivan is vice president of operations; Prasant Potuluri is chief technology officer; and David Brady is consultant and chief technical adviser. Brady is the director of the Fitzpatrick Center and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke.

Centice: www.centice.com