Ghent University and Imec spin out silicon photonics firm

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Ghent University and Imec have spun out a silicon photonics-based fibre optic sensing company, called Sentea.

An initial €1.6 million in funding was raised from Fidimec, Finindus, PMV and QBIC II and the founders.

Sentea says its technology will be used to monitor engineering structures for signs of damage, as well as to control industrial installations to maximise their efficiency.

According to the research from MarketsandMarkets, structural health monitoring is estimated to grow from a $1.48 billion market in 2018 to $3.38 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 17.93 per cent. This is driven primarily by concerns about failure in aging infrastructure in developed countries, along with stringent government regulations.

Optical fibres can be designed to sense pressure and temperature at multiple points along their length. Integrating these sensors into engineering structures such as wind turbines, nuclear power plants, ships, trains, airplanes, buildings, bridges, dams, and tunnels will give structural health readouts over time.

Monitoring structural health is also expected to grow at a rate of more than 20 per cent from 2018-2023 in the energy sector, for installations such as wind turbines, nuclear power plants and hydropower plants.

‘Integrating all optical functions into a single silicon photonics component will allow us to make highly accurate, small and robust fibre optic sensor interrogators. Silicon photonics is also very cost-effective, which makes fibre optic sensing affordable for a wide range of new markets and applications, and facilitates universal and continues monitoring of structures,’ commented Karsten Verhaegen, CEO of Sentea. ‘Key potential customers have expressed great interest in Sentea’s solutions, stating that better infrastructure lifetime management and process control makes them more competitive in their respective markets.’

‘Sentea builds on state-of-the-art silicon photonics technology IP that has been developed at the Photonics Research Group of Imec and Ghent University for the past 20 years, a technology in which both organisations are perceived as world-leading,’ stated Luc Van den hove, president and CEO at Imec. ‘This firm technology base will provide Sentea a kick-start to develop its sensor technology that is answering an existing need in a broad range of market segments.’

Image caption: Sentea’s management team from left to right: Thijs Spuesens (CTO), Karsten Verhaegen (CEO), Ronny Bockstaele (COO)