A new approach to dramatically improve performance highlights the limitations of silicon-based sensors.
Sheffield, 7 December 2022 – Phlux Technology, a designer of high-performance infrared sensors, has secured £4 million in seed funding from leading deep tech investors. The round was led by Octopus Ventures and included Northern Gritstone, Foresight Williams Technology Funds and Innovation Fund, as well as funding from Innovate UK. A spin-off from the University of Sheffield, it has leveraged intensive research into the semi-metallic element antimony to develop a unique and patented approach to infrared sensors that can significantly improve their performance in LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems. Compared to equivalent sensors, the new architecture offers a 10x increase in sensitivity and a 50% increase in range, reducing the manufacturing cost of LiDAR sensors and opening up mass market adoption.
“We are pleased to lead this investment round in Phlux Technology, as this innovative breakthrough is critical to the future direction of transportation, communications and emissions monitoring systems,” said Amy Nommeots-Nomm, Deep Tech investor at Octopus Ventures. “Today, there is market consolidation among silicon-based sensor players precisely because they can’t solve the problems that Phlux has cracked, making it a huge potential.”
Positioning Phlux and Sheffield at the heart of cutting-edge semiconductor technology According to Semiconductor Applications Catapult 1, the UK compound semiconductor market is worth around $8 billion in 2020 and will grow to $11 billion by 2024, accounting for around 8% of the global market. techUK 2 highlighted the country’s strength in semiconductor design and intellectual property (IP), with 110 design houses and a leadership position in non-silicon-based compounds – an area Phlux is entering. Phlux is based in one of the world’s leading centers for III-V semiconductor research, with world-class research and facilities at the University of Sheffield and the National Epitaxy Facility, which has received a £12 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) grant.
“Phlux Technology is an excellent example of an exciting new generation of technology businesses in the North of England turning research into reality,” said Duncan Johnson, Chief Executive of Northern Gritstone. “The company’s innovative approach demonstrates how world-leading technology can be
The potential to transform an entire industry is emerging from the triangle of Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. Northern Gritstone exists to support and advance businesses like Phlux. “
Infrared sensors, such as the one Phlux is building, have applications beyond lidar in satellite communications and internet in remote areas, fiber-optic telecommunications, autonomous vehicles, gas sensing and quantum communications. Phlux recently awarded the Innovate UK project
Quantum Success Story QLM develops sensors for LiDAR-based camera-monitored greenhouses
“We are delighted to be working with Phlux to develop a sensor for our single-photon lidar to measure greenhouse gas emissions,” said QLM CEO Murray Reed.
Climate control requires large-scale deployment of surveillance solutions, which require low-cost technology and full supply chain control of key components such as sensors. Phlux’s technology is particularly exciting as it offers a higher performing alternative to current methods and opens up for us a new UK supplier with great potential. “
Overcoming the limitations of silicon-based sensors
Phlux Technology was founded by Ben White, CEO, Prof. Jo Shien Ng and Prof. Chee Hing
Tan, they met at the University of Sheffield, where they researched new semiconductor materials and
Infrared detection device.Differs from Moore’s Law for predicting performance in semiconductors
Improved every 18 months, infrared sensors (InGaAs) in
Performance.After more than 10 years of research on alternatives, the founders identified antimony
As a material capable of revolutionizing the lidar sensor market.It opens up access to 1550nm
Infrared space, which offers increased sensitivity and capacity as it operates in the “eye safe” zone
electromagnetic spectrum.In contrast, more than 1,000 times more photons can be safely emitted
Silicon-compatible emitters enable antimony-based sensors to see farther and have larger pixels
Density at mass market cost.
“Our goal is to be the Nvidia of the infrared sensor market, starting with providing
The world’s first LIDAR receiver chip to use antimony,” said CEO and co-founder Ben White. “The industry will
Full autonomy will never be achieved if LIDAR relies on silicon-based sensors, so our approach will
Reshaping the sensor market for robotics and autonomous machines.we are happy to spin
Phlux’s departure from the University of Sheffield comes as it has ambitious plans to become a global center of excellence for semiconductor research, while the UK seeks to demonstrate its capabilities as a center for semiconductor research.
A global scientific superpower. “
In the first phase of commercialization, Phlux developed a world-class single-element sensor
Leading sensitivity, retrofittable to today’s LIDAR systems and will be part of the Phyllo family
production line.In the long term, Phlux is building an integrated subsystem and array of modules to form a
High Performance Sensor Toolkit, and next year, it will expand its engineering team in the following areas
Examples include manufacturing, mixed-signal circuit design, optics, and testing.
“Improving sensor performance while reducing cost is accelerating
Adopting higher levels of driving automation, with this seed funding, we look forward to seeing
Transition of Phlux’s sensor technology to full commercialization”,
Williams Advanced Engineering Technology Ventures.
Commenting on the investment, Christopher Wiles, Investment Director at Foresight, said: “Phlux’s
Innovative technology has the potential to become the mainstream standard for automotive lidar
system. We look forward to supporting its entrepreneurial team in realizing this ambition. “