Gas sensing technology start-up, Cambridge CMOS Sensors Ltd (CCMOS), has secured initial funding from Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds. The precise amount was not disclosed but co-founder Professor Julian Gardner confirmed that CCMOS has already opened an office in Cambridge and is recruiting staff.
The spin-out from the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering has licensed technology from the University of Warwick and aims to commercialise CMOS-compatible gas sensors. Its sensors employ high-temperature tungsten MOSFET heaters embedded in a silicon on insulator (SOI) membrane. These effectively form a micro-hotplate that heats the sensing material, allowing it to react with gas molecules. Crucially, CCMOS' MOSFETs can be fabricated in a commercial SOI-CMOS process and therefore can be fully integrated with the associated drive/detection circuitry.
CCMOS expects its technology to significantly improve upon existing gas sensors, which tend to be high cost, due to their semi-automated manufacturing methods, and consume more power than is ideal for portable instrumentation. Current applications for gas sensors include smoke alarms, laboratory analysis, medicine, automobiles, and industrial safety. However, the company envisages many more applications for silicon-based micro-gas sensors as a result of their small size and lower manufacturing cost. Notably, CCMOS's sensors can accurately test for carbon monoxide, whilst the technology also has application in testing airplane cabin air quality, which is apparently a particular challenge on long haul flights.
The company's founders are Dr Florin Udrea, also a co-founder of CamSemi; Professor Julian Gardner, a professor of electronic engineering at Warwick University; and Professor Bill Milne, head of the Electrical Engineering Division at Cambridge University and director of Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics. The three academics have worked together for 15 years and have a successful record of transferring research to industry. Nick Slaymaker, Investment Manager at Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds, will also join CCMOS' board of directors.
Commented Professor Gardner: "We are very excited about the potential of Cambridge CMOS micro-hotplate technology. Our devices can heat up from room temperature to 700oC in just a few milliseconds and have ultra low power consumption suitable for battery-operated devices - sub milliwatt when driven in ac mode and at 400oC." Asked by ADLE what the next step is, Professor Gardner said: "We will develop prototypes, find commercial partners and licence technology."