7 September 2020
CSC involved in UK National Quantum Technologies Programme projects
The Compound Semiconductor Centre Ltd (CSC) – a joint venture founded in 2015 between Cardiff University and epiwafer foundry and substrate maker IQE plc of Cardiff, Wales, UK – has announced its involvement in two new projects funded by Innovate UK under the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.
In July, CSC formally initiated a new £1.9m project in collaboration with partners including III-V optoelectronic foundry Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global Ltd (CST Global) of Glasgow, Scotland, UK, Cardiff University, semiconductor and MEMS device maker INEX Microtechnology Ltd of Newcastle -upon-Tyne, UK, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University of Nottingham to develop a compact laser-pumped atomic magnetometer. The novel sensor correlates 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. A wide range of applications includes:
- detection of corrosion under insulation (which costs £4 trillion globally in downtime and repairs);
- in-line material characterization and quality control across the >£1.5bn 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).
“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,” says CSC project manager Denise Powell.
In August, CSC started work on a new £5.5m project with nine industry and academic partners led by British battery maker AMTE Power. CSC’s focus is on developing 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.
“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,” says CSC project manager Ali Anjomshoaa. “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,” he adds.
“These projects are the latest in a portfolio of innovative technologies that are translating quantum science into UK-based manufacturing to address new global opportunities,” says CSC director Wyn Meredith. “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.”