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CSC develops sensors for micro-defects

17 September 2020

Compound Semiconductor Centre sensor

Sensors which detect micro-defects in materials are being developed by the Compound Semiconductor Centre – Cardiff University’s joint venture with IQE.

Funded by Innovate UK under the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, two new collaborations will translate quantum science into UK-based manufacturing.

CSC has initiated a new £1.9M project with partners including CST Global, Cardiff University, INEX Microtechnology, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University of Nottingham to develop a novel sensor.

Known as a compact laser-pumped atomic magnetometer, it works by correlating the interaction between alkali-metal atoms and an external magnetic field to infer minute changes in surface structures.

This allows the detection of micro-defects in materials and objects that are not visible or hidden from view under protective coatings.

Applications for the technology include:

  • Detection of corrosion under insulation which costs £4trillion globally in downtime and repairs
  • In-line material characterisation and quality control across the >£1.5billion steel industry
  • Accurate detection of underground assets to reduce excavation time and cost during repairs and maintenance– such as transmission lines, gas and water pipes

CSC Project Manager, Denise Powell, said: “The global Non-Destructive Test market is worth £7bn annually, and higher sensitivity in-line sensor solutions are desperately required to help meet the net-zero greenhouse gas target by 2050 via reducing fugitive emissions in aging infrastructure, and increasing materials production efficiency.”

CSC is also working on a new £5.5m project with nine industry and academic partners, led by British battery manufacturer AMTE Power.

CSC’s focus is to develop high performance, compound semiconductor laser sources for quantum magnetometers, to enable extremely high sensitivity magnetic field measurements to grade new batteries leaving the factory and reduce the time taken for the ageing process from weeks to days.

This new quantum sensing technology will cut the cost of production and provide additional capability in grading the quality of batteries for electric cars and other uses in the electrification revolution.

An immediate application is integration in UK efforts to build a Gigafactory for battery production in the next few years, in anticipation of 50% of UK vehicle production being wholly or partially electric by 2030.

CSC Project Manager, Ali Anjomshoaa said: “We need radically new methods of battery assembly, testing and screening to enable truly high-volume battery manufacture to meet the demands of electrification of transport. This project is a great example of the application of UK derived quantum science to address real-world problems and drive the future of the British automotive, transport and energy industries.”

Dr Wyn Meredith, CSC Director, added: “These two projects are the latest in a portfolio of innovative technologies that are translating quantum science into UK based manufacturing to address new global opportunities. It is essential that we continue to focus on exploitation of our word-class research to keep the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future.”

The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) was formed in August 2015 as a joint venture between IQE plc, the world leading supplier of advanced compound semiconductor wafer products, and Cardiff, one of the Britain's leading research-intensive universities.

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