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University Spinout Targets Sensor Industry

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Scotland-based AlbaSense to develop imaging and sensor solutions using thin film deposition and photonic technologies

A new spinout company from University of the West of Scotland (UWS) hopes to disrupt the thin film and sensor industry - currently valued at more than £2.5 billion globally.

AlbaSense, based within UWS's Institute of Thin Films, Sensors and Imaging (ITFSI), is the third spinout company from the University and will develop low-cost, high-performance thin film optical coatings and photonic sensors, using exclusive patented processes.

Combined with previous industry expertise of the founders in optical coatings, gas sensing and spectroscopy this has led to the identification of fundamental market needs for precision optical coatings, infrared light sources/detectors, ultra-low power, non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) gas sensors and low cost, portable sensing and imaging spectrometers.

The company will license core IP, including three patents, from UWS on a worldwide exclusive basis.

One technology the company is thought to be exploring uses ZnO films on silicon to generate dual-mode surface acoustic waves for lab-on-a-chip applications.

Des Gibson (pictured above), AlbaSense founder and a pioneer in thin film deposition and photonic sensor technology, said: “AlbaSense is the result of world-class research and expertise, combined with previous industry experience, which has led to the identification of fundamental market needs for lower cost, thin film and sensor technology.

“We aim to provide imaging and sensor solutions in a range of areas where miniaturised high-volume, low-cost measurement is required, such as medical diagnostics, agritech, environmental monitoring and monitoring of industrial processes.

“I am delighted that AlbaSense will design, develop and manufacture from within UWS's Institute of Thin Films, Sensors and Imaging, allowing the company to retain the wide range of skills and academic expertise on offer at the University, while bringing strong industry links and economic benefits to UWS, contributing directly to Scotland's thriving innovation economy.”

Through UWS's Institute of Thin Films, Sensors and Imaging, AlbaSense is already working with Glenrothes-based Semefab Ltd - a manufacturer of microelectronics and micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS).

Allan James, Founder and CEO of Semefab, said: “I am pleased to be working with AlbaSense, who will provide unique optical coating technology for our infrared detector products, as well as precision photonic sensor technology.

“We have been fortunate to work with AlbaSense and the wider team within the Institute of Thin Films - benefiting from a wide range of skills and experience. I very much look forward to continuing to work with the team over the coming months.”

AlbaSense will benefit from two phases of funding from Scottish Enterprise's High Growth Spin-Out Programme, worth a total of £528,000 over three years. Additionally, two CENSIS projects, three Innovate UK projects and an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project, worth a total of £3 million have been secured to develop end-use applications of the patented technology.

Johnny Mone, Head of Business Innovation at UWS, added: “AlbaSense is a fantastic example of the pioneering research and innovation taking place at UWS and highlights the University's commitment to supporting enterprise.”

The AlbaSense team is made up of six UWS academics with previous industry experience: David Hutson, expert in research and development for thin film devices;vShigeng Song, expert in thin film physics and applications; Lewis Fleming, specialist in gas sensors; Parag Vichare, expert in manufacturing research; Ewan Waddell, expert in optical and physical modelling; and company founder and CEO, Des Gibson, who has more than 30 years industry and academic experience in sensors and thin film technologies.

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