Sensor technologies are well advanced these days and provide a vast range of possibilities to analyse, characterise and quantify. – Often, however, those technologies are not available at the required sample location, because they are either not portable, not rugged, drain battery life too quickly, are too heavy or are not sensitive enough.
As a leading Australian developer of innovative miniature sensors, we enable compact and accurate sensor technologies that can be used in small-sized devices or widely deployed on-site, ready to generate the information needed for smart decisions.
Panorama Synergy is in the business of developing high-quality sensor technology for the field and on-site.
We are focused on the commercial and technological advancement of two technology platforms, we’ve developed: our patented LumiMEMS™ sensor and the micro spectrometer, bringing the advantages of MEMS to the spectroscopy world, but with sensitivity, accuracy and specificity.
What are MEMS?
As humans, our five senses enable us to function in everyday life. Micro-electromechanical Systems (MEMS) take senses to a new level for their ability to detect minute changes far beyond the capability of people.
These MEMS live on microchips and comprise miniature mechanical devices – such as sensors, mirrors, lenses, valves and actuators. They are integrated into almost all the technology we use everyday. From our smartphones to the thermostat on our heater and the engine control of our car, the technology we use is made possible thanks to MEMS.
Sensors fabricated using MEMS technology can be used in every possible scenario where detecting substances – or sensing – is required. In fact, we use MEMS sensors everyday without knowing it.
These highly sensitive machines are able to detect and measure chemical and biological substances, movement and acceleration, sound, pressure, diseases, explosives, food quality, mineral composition and a wide range of other parameters. Their small size allows them to be robust and lightweight, require little power and incorporated into a broad range of devices.
Both our sensor technologies are based on the MEMS principle – moving microstructures that generate a measurable signal. The LumiMEMS™ sensor, for example, is a sensitive movement detection device that measures the movement of a microstructure. These sensor technologies are very sensitive, accurate and small, and can detect many substances and movement in the environment that is so small other methods may not notice. They can operate almost anywhere, from hazardous environments and underwater, to extreme temperatures, underground, in liquid or in a vacuum. This derives from their small size which lessens the effect of gravity on the moving part and the design of the components – and for certain applications, they can be built such that any electrical components can reside remote from the sensor.
What is spectroscopy?
When light hits a material, some parts of it are absorbed, while others are transmitted or reflected. This leads to every material having a characteristic – ‘optical fingerprint’. You can see this as the colour of a material. Spectroscopy goes even further, because it not only detects visible light, but can also work with lightwaves which are invisible to the human eye – for example, UV or infrared – and it enables remote sensing where the sensor does not have to come into direct contact with the sample.
Spectroscopy examines the wavelength content, the so-called spectrum, to assess the composition of a sample that the lightwaves have interacted with. It can be used to analyse chemical composition and physical properties, for example, in remotely identifying an object or its qualities. Spectroscopy has been used for many years in military for ‘friend or foe’ applications, and in agriculture for a variety of crop and soil analysis applications.
Common applications for spectroscopy include:
- testing in food and agriculture
- testing in pharmaceuticals and health care
- threat monitoring and target identification in military and defence
- characterisation of oil shales, petroleum and octane
- hazard detection in the chemical industry.
Panorama Synergy’s technologies – similar but unique
Our micro spectrometer technology is similar to the LumiMEMS™ sensor because both are based on the same small, robust, broadly scalable, energy and cost-efficient MEMS technology which facilitate laboratory-accuracy testing on-site and in the field.
Spectroscopy is already a large market. There are many spectrometers available, but very few are MEMS-based. Our micro spectrometer technology enables miniature spectroscopy modules the size of a microchip, whereas existing spectrometers can be traditionally so bulky that they live in a lab, or large vehicle. Our MEMS-based technology enables spectrometers that are tiny, robust, cost-effective and accurate, taking testing out into the field. Our technology aims to meet and eventually exceed the performance of the expensive lab-based units.
The LumiMEMS™ sensor detects and measures nearly imperceptible movements in a cantilever or something similar, in a generic way. So what makes the cantilever move? It can be chemical or biological agents, and it can be earthquakes, for example, however minutely, should millions of cantilevers be placed on the ocean floor. In the example of chemical detection, the surface coating of a microstructure makes the LumiMEMS ™ sensor selective towards a certain anlayte, or chemical. The movement of the microstructure is detected optically rather than electrically and this makes the detection accurate, reliable and sensitive.
Our two core technologies, the LumiMEMS™ sensor and micro spectometer for spectroscopy, enable high- accuracy sensing capabilities for the field and on-site, and have a broad range of applications across multiple industry sectors. These ‘sensory organs’ are the technologically advanced ‘nose’ (LumiMEMS™), able to sniff out and detect chemicals present in the surrounding area. The micro spectometer is the ‘eye’, capable of seeing and identifying objects by assessing the composition of a sample the light entering the spectrometer has interacted with. These devices are already part of a mobile phone, for example, in cars, console games, drones and many other consumer devices. These technologies provide what we call ‘decision superiority’ in the field. It sets us apart from, and ahead of, several current generation devices, which aren’t compact enough to enable on-the-spot measurements for sensitive detection requirements.
- minuscule and portable – a laboratory in the field
- great sensitivity and accuracy
- operates in harsh (high and low) temperatures, under water, in fluids, in a vacuum
- an array of MEMS sensors can be placed on the same chip, enabling a wider range of readings
The LumiMEMS™sensor is a sensitive movement detection device, which measures smaller movements than other methods can. It has the ability to detect movement at the micromechanical structural level in substances and in the environment, via a laser-based optical system integrated into a MEMS sensor. The technology is significant because it is more versatile than other sensing methods.
The LumiMEMS™sensor fits into the lucrative MEMS sensor market. Valued at US$16 billion, this fast-growing market is forecast to grow to US$32 billion in 2024.1
It has been successfully lab-tested and patented, with the first early-stage prototype successfully tested in December 2014.
The theory has been tested for detecting hydrocarbons in the atmosphere, such as Toluene, as well as gases in the air, such as Hydrogen.
Panorama Synergy took ownership of the LumiMEMS™ technology intellectual property and strengthened its focus on commercialisation, which has been an integral move to engage potential customers and development partners.
1HIS Inc, Yole Development, EE Times
Micro Spectrometer for spectroscopy
- miniature spectroscopy capabilities the size of a chip
- enables portable and broadly deployed devices
- low power requirements
Our technology is small enough to potentially fit inside the camera of a typical smartphone. It has the competitive edge over other methods because it is small, fast, easy to use and cost-efficient, with greater scalability. For example, a factory production line may choose to use a sensor at every step of the production process rather than one at the end, for continuous quality control. It is the most probable way that we will monitor threats and identify targets in military and defence going forward, although in fact the military has been using this technology for many years, just not in a miniature format. Spectroscopy is already used to test food and livestock in agriculture; detect hazardous substances in industry; and make medical diagnoses, among numerous other applications. These spectrometers typically are large, expensive and require frequent maintenance, and their users wait their turn for access. This is the beginning of a sea change where all of those capabilities could be in the palm of your hand, or in a drone, and give instant feedback.
This innovative technology brings quality spectrometers out of the laboratory and into the field. Today, most spectrometers that produce comparable results can cost US$50,000 to US$400,000 and are often much more bulky.
Panorama Synergy’s technologies target multiple sectors. We’ve identified the following markets as priority, for the important advantages the LumiMEMS™ sensor and micro spectometer technology provides:
Food and agriculture – improved agriculture yields and lower production costs, with real-time analysis of crops, fertiliser and livestock using a hand-held or mobile device.
Defence – civilians’ and military personnel’s lives saved through the rapid and improved detection of hazardous substances in the field, with super-sensitive detection of explosives, nerve agents and contaminants.
Industry – real-time feedback of control processes, moving out of the lab and onto the production line for contamination detection, composition analysis and process completion.
Commercialisation of the two technologies is well underway, with testing by companies underway to adapt the form, factor and function to their particular requirements.
There is almost nothing that cannot be detected and measured.