UGent and Imec Launch Fiber Optic Sensing Spin-Off Sentea

Silicon photonics based fiber optic sensing allows for highly accurate, small, robust and cost-efficient structural health monitoring and process control

innovative imaging, fiber optic sensing, wireless sensor network, germanium nanowire pFETs

Ghent University (UGent) and imec today announced the incorporation of Sentea, a spin-off from their world leading Photonics Research Group. An initial 1.6 million Euro in funding was raised from Fidimec, Finindus, PMV and QBIC II and the founders. Sentea will develop and market advanced silicon photonics based fiber optic sensing solutions. These will be used to continuously monitor engineering structures for signs of damages that over time could lead to catastrophic failure, as well as to control industrial installations to maximize their efficiency.

According to the new market research report from MarketsandMarkets, the structural health monitoring market is estimated to grow from USD 1.48 billion in 2018 to USD 3.38 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 17.93% between 2018 and 2023. The major factors driving the growth of the structural health monitoring market include concerns about catastrophic failure due to aging infrastructures in the developed countries, stringent government regulations pertaining to the sustainability of structures, and the superior benefits of structural health monitoring. Furthermore, the structural Health Monitoring Market for the Energy vertical is expected to grow at a rate of more than 20% from 2018-2023, owing to various applications 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 fiber optic sensor interrogators. Silicon photonics is also very cost-effective, which makes fiber 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 the UGent for the past 20 years, a technology in which both organizations are perceived as world-leading,” stated Luc Van den hove, president and Chief Executive Officer 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.”

To develop its first products and bring them to market, the company raised 1.6 million Euro in funding from a consortium of investors including Fidimec, Finindus, PMV and QBIC II.

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

About Structural Health Monitoring

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is a process in which engineering structures are continuously monitored throughout their lifetime for early signs of damages that over time could lead to catastrophic failure. By detecting any damage early on, and repairing or replacing the damaged part, catastrophic failure and the resulting downtime and huge repair costs can be avoided. A range of SHM solutions, such as fiber optic sensing, have found their way into engineering structures such as wind turbines, nuclear power plants, ships, trains, airplanes, buildings, bridges, dams, tunnels, heavy machinery, blast furnaces and so on.

About fiber optic sensing

Fiber optic sensing is a technology where the sensor itself is a specialty fiber designed such that it can sense pressure and temperature at multiple point along the length of the fiber. An interrogator device then captures the signal of the multiple sensing points in the fiber and interprets the signal into pressure, temperature or other derived parameters (e.g. acceleration or vibration). The inherent advantages of fiber optic sensors such as light weight, small size, passive, low attenuation, immunity to electromagnetic interference, wide bandwidth and environmental ruggedness are heavily used to offset their major disadvantages of high cost of the interrogator. Cost reduction of fiber optic sensor interrogators, together with new trends like IoT, big data and industry 4.0 will boost the utility and demand of fiber optic sensing in SHM and process control even further.

About Silicon Photonics

Silicon photonics allows for major cost savings and a significant increase in capabilities in developing and fabricating optical components. The ability to use standard CMOS manufacturing processes makes silicon photonics commercially very attractive. The sub-micron precision of these standard microelectronic CMOS processes allow for silicon photonics components to integrate a variety of optical functions in a very small chip that consumes far less power than traditional optical components. Decades of experience in making (electronic) chips from silicon as well as the installed base of (silicon) semiconductor manufacturing capacity can be leveraged to build highly integrated low-cost optical components for a variety of applications.

About Sentea

Sentea aspires to be a market leader in advanced fiber optical solutions for structural health and process monitoring. The company was incorporated in 2018 as a spin-off of the Photonics Research Group of Ghent University and imec to commercialize more than a decade of research in silicon photonics and fiber optic sensing. Benefitting from the advantages of silicon photonics, Sentea will develop and market fiber optic sensing interrogators that offer high accuracy, small size and advanced functionality, positioned for deployment in a wide range of applications and markets, hence enabling continuous monitoring of structural integrity to become the standard. Sentea is privately held by a consortium of investors including Fidimec, Finindus, PMV and QBIC II.

About imec

Imec is the world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. The combination of our widely acclaimed leadership in microchip technology and profound software and ICT expertise is what makes us unique. By leveraging our world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of partners across a multitude of industries, we create groundbreaking innovation in application domains such as healthcare, smart cities and mobility, logistics and manufacturing, energy and education.

As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and universities we bring together more than 4,000 brilliant minds from over 85 nationalities. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and has distributed R&D groups at a number of Flemish universities, in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, China, and offices in India and Japan. In 2017, imec’s revenue (P&L) totaled 546 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec-int.com.

About UGent

Ghent University was founded in 1817 and is one of Europe’s leading institutions of higher education and research in the Dutch-speaking region today. It comprises eleven faculties offering education driven by its innovative research in the many scientific disciplines. Located in Flanders, Belgium, the cultural, political, and economic heart of Europe, Ghent University is an active partner in many national and international educational, scientific and industrial collaboration projects.

The Photonics Research Group in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture is one of Europe’s leading groups in the field of photonic integration and silicon photonics. It is associated with imec and hosts 80 researchers including six ERC-grantees. The Photonics Research Group is part of the Center for Nano and Biophotonics – NB-Photonics – a multidisciplinary research and technology transfer platform clustering the resources and knowhow of 23 professors across four different faculties.

About Fidimec

Imec supports, via its subsidiary FIDIMEC NV, the creation of spin-off companies, through direct investments, as well as via imec.xpand.

About Finindus

Finindus is an investment company backed by ArcelorMittal and Flanders and linked to OCAS, a world class metal research center with campuses in Zelzate and Zwijnaarde (Belgium). Finindus provides early stage and growth financing and management support to innovative companies active in materials, materials processing, sustainable manufacturing and industry 4.0.www.finindus.be

About PMV

PMV is a Flemish investment company that shapes the future of the Flemish economy.  It finances promising companies from the very start, taking them to growth and globalization. PMV provides tailored financial solutions to all entrepreneurs with a business plan and a strong management team through capital, loans and guarantees. An experienced, highly motivated team of professional investment managers endeavors day in and day out to create prosperity and well-being in Flanders. PMV manages a portfolio of  €1.2 billion.
For more information, please go to  www.pmv.eu

About QBIC II

Qbic is a seed and early-stage and sector agnostic inter-university fund investing in spin-offs and young innovating companies that have a technology link with Qbic’s partner universities and research institutions. Qbic is managed by an independent team of seasoned investment and business professionals.  The first Qbic fund – Qbic I – has been incorporated in 2012 with a capital of € 40,7 million and invested in 18 companies.  Qbic I is currently focusing on follow on investments and exits. The second Qbic fund – Qbic II – started in December 2016 and has a capital € of 58,9 million.  With close to € 100 million under management, Qbic is one of the largest inter-university spin-off funds in Europe.

Source : imec