UV sensor technology for environmental and terrain monitoring

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Physics


The amazing progress of modern particle physics in measuring the properties of the the most fundamental building blocks of Nature depends on highly sophisticated detectors, and many physicists work on improving detector technologies. A few years ago, the Warwick Elementary Particle Physics Group realised that a certain type of particle physics detector could also be used to detect ultra-violet (UV) light. Furthermore, by working with Warwick Surface, Interface and Thin Film Group we have shown that these detectors can measure UV light of different, chosen wavelengths (different "colours" - even though UV is invisible to the human eye). This is achieved by changing the materials and their surfaces in the active part of the detector. Even better, these detectors can be made at quite low cost and are very tough and robust compared to competing technologies. UV detection is important for industry, environmental sensing, defence and security, and other sectors, and we have filed patents on our new technology. The ability to detect several selected UV wavelengths without expensive optical components is a big step forward; however, unless we show that this ability can address real-world challenges, our technology will remain "a solution looking for a problem". In this project we will show our sensors' capability in two specific fields, namely (1) terrain sensing for automotive applications and (2) water contamination monitoring. In each of these fields we have found non-academic partners who have provided a strong steer for the technology - what wavelengths should we focus on, what sensitivities are needed, and so on. During the Follow-on-Fund project we will build sensors specifically tailored to these problems. By demonstrating the capability of our sensors to address industry-led applications we will unlock their commercial potential.


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