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Plasma Technology
Technologies to look out for in 2019 and learnings from 2018

17 Jan 2019   Author: Dr Ravi Sundaram


What an exciting year 2018 was!  Action packed events and flashy product releases across the world.  No, I am not quite referring to the release of the new Avengers movie and its links to other Marvel movies! That being said, Marvel enthusiasts among our readership may have worked out the role of quantum entanglement between the fictional characters which enable them to communicate across large distances.  While you can probably hear physicists cringing at the ease with which matter seems entangled in the marvel multiverse (doesn’t happen quite so easily in our universe), it is this very principle (with a couple of other lovely quantum features….read blog here to learn more) that a fast growing number of researchers and engineers use for quantum information processing.

Quantum technologies R&D has now attained critical mass which is reflected in waves of R&D funding being sanctioned by several countries across the world. 2018 was particularly a key year for quantum technology R&D in Europe with launch the billion Euro quantum flagship project in which Oxford Instruments are excited to participate.   Just before the new year began, we also heard great news from the US Senate where they decided to invest $1.2 Billion in a national quantum technology initiative. If you are thinking all this research money will essentially go into writing a bunch of Hamiltonians on a board, think again because there are some bold and innovating moves being made by the giants of the semiconductor industry to reduce barrier to access quantum computers and in turn generate innovative ideas on how it could be used.  We are looking forward to a great 2019 for Quantum technology and are ready to enable  these efforts through our state-of-art instrumentation, characterization and fabrication tools!

Another highlight from 2018 was the launch of some incredibly powerful smart phones. Yes indeed I am referring to the likes of the apple Iphone X and Huawei who launched devices powered by 7 nm node chips! That’s about 6.9 Billion transistors working in harmony processing data from all the sensors and performing machine learning in real time to give us an experience that we would have considered science fiction even 15-20 years ago. One particularly impressive sensor which has proliferated across smartphones offered by several companies now is the 3D facial recognition sensor array. The beautiful piece of engineering that evolved over the last 15 years consists of an array of vertically emitting lasers called VCSELS that bounce off facial features and “recognize” its owner.  Fabrication of these lasers involve several layers of material processing and manufacturers across the globe are using our solutions for producing VCSELs. This market continues to grow in 2019 and we hope to see a good percentage of smart phones to hold VCSELs fabricated using Oxford Instruments technology.

A striking feature in such data comm. and telecom devices is the fact that they are already 5G ready. Reports from CES 2019 that concluded last week showed that 5G was one of the hottest topics and its arrival is imminent.  One of the challenges of today’s semiconductor-based technologies is the challenge of fabrication and limitation of performance at speeds beyond 5G. In 2018 Graphene emerged as potential contender to overcome these limitations in performance of key components for optical and radio communications.  We are extremely proud to be supporting some of the key technology hubs for the scale up of these devices and hope to work with a lot more in 2019.  Applications for these devices go beyond communications. They are expected to play a key role in sensors for several IOT based applications such as gas and bio sensing.

A rapidly growing application space for connected sensors is in healthcare. Advances in fabrication technology and its adaptation to biomedical devices has matured to the stage we start seeing some interesting devices breaking into the market.  One such device is the continuous glucose monitoring technology that is being commercialised by companies such as Medtronic and a few others for diabetes care. There are a several such devices targeting a myriad of biological activity at different levels of readiness, some of which highlighted at the medical MEMS event in Santa Clara last year. 2019 is looking extremely promising in terms of the demand and activity of biomedical or lab on chip devices with some exciting technologies steadily reaching maturity such as nanopore DNA sequencing and integrated photonics-based biosensors.   Over the last 2 years we have invested significant effort in developing our understanding and capability of solutions for a wide range of biomedical devices.

2018 has therefore delivered significant advancements towards a fully connected world that benefits from the data and communication of millions of sensors.  As you can imagine this will lead to continuous increase in data traffic and storage.  Increase in communications speeds and decrease in latencies will also further reduce barriers and spur innovation via network access to quantum computers and improving reliability of autonomous decision-making sensors in automotive, aviation, manufacturing and several other industries. We cannot wait to see what 2019 has in store for us. Here’s wishing you an immensely successful new year and look forward to working with you through our highly innovative and reliable solutions for your R&D and production needs.

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