A Cambridge University spin-out developing tiny but powerful sensors has secured £1.2m in seed funding.
The really exciting aspect of the Sorex Sensors’ technology is that the same device can be tailored to specifically detect a wide range of targets. This allows detection of combinations of targets to be simply realised on a single chip at low cost, such as airborne particulates and pollutant gases. Coupling this with a mobile phone could allow a personal air quality monitoring device.Sorex Sensors’ Director Professor Andrew Flewitt
Cambridge Enterprise, the Cambridge Angels and Cambridge Capital Group have completed an initial round of investment in Sorex Sensors Limited, a spin-out company from the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Elaine Loukes, Investment Director at Cambridge Enterprise and Richard Parmee of the Cambridge Angels will be joining the board.
Sorex Sensors was founded by Professor Andrew Flewitt, Dr Mario de Miguel-Ramos and Professor Bill Milne from Cambridge with co-founders Dr Marina Cole and Professor Julian Gardner from the University of Warwick and Professor Enrique Iborra from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.
Sorex Sensors has developed a novel mass sensor which is based on Film Bulk Acoustic Resonator (FBAR) technology. It has several advantages over existing sensors:
- it has high mass sensitivity, down to 1 femtogram (the weight of the average virus particle);
- it is extremely small, being about the same as a human hair in diameter, and can be arranged into arrays [on the same chip] to measure different targets simultaneously;
- the sensors have an incredibly low power requirement, allowing them to be operated from a coin cell, battery, mobile phone or even by energy harvesting from an RFID device.
FBARs are manufactured using standard CMOS processes and are currently produced in their billions for the telecoms industry each year as filters and multiplexers, rather than sensors.
Sorex Sensors is initially focusing on film thickness measurement in deposition systems, particle monitoring and specific gas molecule sensing in consumer goods. However, the numerous advantages and versatility of this technology open up a wide range of opportunities in a variety of fields, from explosive detection to biological sensing research equipment. With the low power requirements and the possibility of combining different sensor targets on a single chip, such as particulates and gases, Sorex Sensors have the potential to deliver unique advantages in emerging markets around the Internet of Things.
The company has licensed patents from Cambridge Enterprise and the University of Warwick and will have ongoing collaborations with the University of Cambridge, the University of Warwick and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Its core IP has been granted in the USA and EU.
Sorex Sensors’ CEO Dr John Pritchard said: “The Sorex Sensors technology is uniquely well-suited to address pressing problems, such as the need for widespread, accurate and inexpensive monitoring for particulate air pollution, and the need for precise measurement of material thickness in the electronics industry to reduce cost and increase throughput.”
Sorex Sensors’ Director Professor Andrew Flewitt said: “The really exciting aspect of the Sorex Sensors’ technology is that the same device can be tailored to specifically detect a wide range of targets. This allows detection of combinations of targets to be simply realised on a single chip at low cost, such airborne particulates and pollutant gases. Coupling this with a mobile phone could allow a personal air quality monitoring device”.
Dr Elaine Loukes said: “We are delighted to be supporting this new company and believe that this sensor offers unique advantages in many applications with the triad of benefits; ultra-sensitivity, low power and ability to detect multiple targets on one chip”.
Richard Parmee, from Cambridge Angels said: “Over 20 entrepreneurs from the Cambridge Angels and Cambridge Capital Group have invested in this opportunity. We are excited about the breadth of applications that this novel technology can address and look forward to helping it reach its potential with the wide range of experience the Cambridge Angel group can provide to start-up companies”.