University of Cambridge sensors spin-out raises £1.2m

A sensors technology gamechanger spun out of Cambridge University’s engineering department  has raised £1.2 million seed funding from Cambridge Enterprise, the Cambridge Angels and Cambridge Capital Group.

Sorex Sensors Limited has developed a novel mass sensor which is based on Film Bulk Acoustic Resonator (FBAR) technology. It is said to have immense potential in areas such as the Internet of Things.

It is said to have several advantages over existing sensors: (1) it has high mass sensitivity, down to 1 femtogram (the weight of the average virus particle); (2) 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; and (3) 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 US 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.”

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.

Professor 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.”