The development by Cambridge University staff of compact semiconductor
sources and detectors of Terahertz radiation has opened up this part of
the electromagnetic spectrum to commercial use for the first time,
enabling many applications. In medicine these applications include the
analysis of drugs and the detection and imaging of cancer; in security
applications the detection and imaging of explosives; and in the
semiconductor industry the detection and imaging of buried defects in
semiconductor wafers. High power Terahertz lasers are used in gas sensors,
for imaging and as local oscillators. This technology has been exploited
by a spin-off company TeraView which has 25 employees, has raised £16M in
funding, £3.5M since 2008, and has sold 70 imaging systems, half since
2008 at an average cost of $300K each.
Innovative deposition equipment manufactured by AIXTRON Nanoinstruments,
a company created to exploit research outputs of the University of
Cambridge Department of Engineering, is used around the world to grow
carbon nanotubes and graphene. These materials are subject to intensive
efforts to refine and commercially exploit their unique properties.
AIXTRON Nanoinstruments is based in the UK and has produced almost 100
products, the majority of which were after 2008 and sold to customers
internationally. Products range in price from GBP80k to GBP1.5M. [text removed for publication]
X-ray scanners are a staple of the security industry: their use at ports
and airports is a key component of national security. In order to function
effectively, these scanners require state-of-the- art scintillator
materials and, given the size of the global market and importance of the
industry, there is a drive to make these materials work more effectively
to achieve better clarity in object identification and faster scanning
This case study describes the development of a new scintillator product
for Hilger Crystals Ltd which was based on a long-term collaboration with
materials researchers at the University of Kent. This represents a
substantial contribution to: improving security at country entry/exit
points; the commercial success of Hilger and the company's ability to
enter new markets (for example medical diagnostic uses). In addition to
the downstream security and diagnostic impact arising from this work there
have been a number of concomitant benefits to the country, the company and
Research on the growth of gallium nitride (GaN) light-emitting diode
(LED) structures has led to the creation of two spin-out businesses
(subsequently sold), has assisted Forge Europa Ltd in expanding
its sales of LED-lighting products, has helped AIXTRON to achieve
sales of related GaN-growth equipment [text removed for publication],
& has enabled Plessey Semiconductors Ltd to manufacture the
world's first commercially available LEDs on 6-inch Si (& the first
LEDs to be manufactured in the UK).
Research carried out at Warwick into the growth of silicon-based layered
semiconductors has had a variety of impacts in the fields of
microelectronics and solar energy generation. In 2004, a spin- out company
AdvanceSis was created to exploit the patent portfolio of Warwick's
NanoSilicon Group, with an initial £300 k of Regional Development Fund
support. The company, having focused on the business of solar energy
generation through concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) technology and renamed
Circadian Solar, was valued at £3.5 million by the end of 2011.
Further impact of the Warwick silicon research, in the period since 2008,
has come in the form of joint R&D programmes with companies in the
electronics and ICT sectors, including supplying advanced semiconductor
materials and by providing highly skilled employees trained in the
Our research on semiconductor materials and devices has led to the
establishment by e2v Technologies of a combined manufacturing, research
and development facility within the School of Physics and Astronomy. We
have adapted and transferred device simulation software to e2v, and have
provided epitaxially-grown semiconductors and access to fabrication
facilities which have been used in their manufacturing processes. Devices
fabricated within the facility, which was opened in 2011, have generated
sales of £7M for e2v. This initiative has also led to shifts in the
investment priorities of e2v, and mitigated risks to the company arising
from import restrictions associated with the US International Traffic in
Arms Regulations (ITAR).
Surrey Spin-out Surrey Nano Systems (SNS) is a business based around key
patents resulting from the work of Prof. Ravi Silva and his team. SNS has
raised over £11M from investors who have scrutinised the technology and
recognise its value. The business develops technologies for
low-substrate-temperature growth of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and for novel
low-k dielectric materials both of which align with the
International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). SNS is working
closely with multinational leaders and has attracted a team that includes
senior management experience of selling into the semiconductor process
Between January 2008 and July 2013, over 10,000 key stage 4 school
students and their teachers directly engaged with active research of the
Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge
through an annual interactive 3 day exhibition, titled "Physics at Work".
In 2012 the event attracted 31 non-selective state schools and 17
selective/independent schools, 23 of which had visited the exhibition 3 or
more times previously- a testament to its success. Building on the
enthusiasm that the students showed during their participation in the
event, teachers noted an increase in the number opting to study A-level
physics and stated that those previously with no interest left with a very
positive image of the subject.
Researchers, and the work they undertook at the University of Exeter
during the 1990s, led to the formation of the Defence Evaluation and
Research Agency's (now QinetiQ) first spinout company: ZBD Displays Ltd.
Achieving revenue growth of 17,910% over the last five years, ZBD's unique
electronic retail signage and shelf-edge labelling technology is used by
major retailers all over the world. The invention used the know-how
developed by ZBD's company founders whose R&D and engineering teams
all include former postgraduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy,
who acquired their expertise under the supervision of Professors Roy
Sambles and Bill Barnes.
Semiconductor wafers are subject to damage from misaligned handling tools, leading to cracks.
Most of these are benign, but a few propagate to cause silicon wafer breakage during high
temperature processing, leading to losses in production time costing millions of dollars per year.
Research in Durham showed that X-ray Diffraction Imaging can be used to identify which cracks
will catastrophically fail. As a consequence, Jordan Valley UK Ltd has designed and already sold
over £M [text removed for publication] worth of X-ray imaging tools to the semiconductor industry.
The company identifies this product as being critical to its continuation, safeguarding more than 25
jobs, and growth over the past 2 years.