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PI: Smith, Jason M

Department: Materials

This project seeks to demonstrate robust and low cost chemical sensors based on optical microcavity technology. It is led by Profs Smith (Materials) and Vallance (Chemistry), who together span out Oxford HighQ Ltd in 2018. They will work in partnership with new spinout Mode Labs Limited, which is being established to develop sensors for monitoring levels of nutrient pollution in waterways, to develop sensors suitable for addressing this major environmental and health emergency. The technology was supported at an early stage (2015-17) by EPSRC through the National Quantum Technology Programme.

This project involves a new approach to cavity-enhanced optical sensing that simplifies the microcavity sensing technology, adding robustness and ease of manufacture while reducing cost. Successful proof-of-concept work for the new cavity-enhanced sensing methodology was carried out in this academic year by a fourth year undergraduate student, and a patent application is being prepared to protect this invention. IAA funding is requested now to develop the fabrication of simplified devices which utilise this methodology. Success of the project will bring the technology to the point where it is attractive for licencing, either to Mode Labs Limited or to another water sensing company. It will provide a cost-effective route to a comprehensive water quality sensor network (over some 40,000 abstraction sites in the UK alone) which will fulfil the requirements of the Environment Act 2021, informing targeted intervention by water companies and government agencies and leading to benefits in the environment and in public health.

Throughout the project we will consider the environmental impact and sustainability of the technology and will focus on maximising public benefit. This will include other areas where the sensors may find application, including in aquaculture, agriculture, security and healthcare.

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