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Single chips, multiple parameters

22 Feb 2010

Stratophase enhances optical-sensor platform, targets industrial process control and biodetection applications

Stratophase (Romsey, UK) has secured £2.5 million (€2.8 million) to further enhance its SpectroSens sensor technology. The funding comes from existing investor East Hill Management and marks a new phase in the development of the optical sensor, which detects toxins and chemical species in a sample without the need for pre-treatment or chemical tagging.

"We are initiating a SpectroSens early-access programme, targeted in particular at industrial-process-control and biodetection sectors," Stratophase CEO Richard Williams told optics.org. "Our intention is to join with partner organizations and leverage this widely applicable technology into multiple end markets."

Stratophase has already worked to tailor SpectroSens for specific industrial applications, and through the early-access programme is now actively seeking early adopters with innovative, industrially relevant production processes. In a parallel push in the biodetection sector, the company intends to form strategic partnerships in medical, veterinary and security markets.

As featured previously on optics.org, SpectroSens sensors are fabricated using a direct-grating-writing process in which two focused UV lasers are overlapped to create an inherent linear interference pattern. Modulating the beam as it scans a photosensitive substrate allows a Bragg grating and a waveguide to be written simultaneously, and incorporate complex variations in the period and contrast within a single grating.

The platform's initial implementation used antibodies attached to the sensor to change the refractive index of a liquid as it passed across the surface. Stratophase is now developing SpectroSens further to allow a single chip to measure multiple parameters.

"In its native form, SpectroSens can profile compositional changes during chemical and biological reactions by monitoring the refractive index and temperature of a liquid as the reaction takes place," said Williams. "We are now integrating additional optical measurement techniques onto a single sensor chip, to create a unique reaction profile that can give a real-time inline indication of process status."

These enhancements will allow SpectroSens to monitor processes such as fermentation in biofuels, biopolymers and biopharmaceuticals. Continuous flow chemistries, such as those used in the production of fine chemicals and active pharmaceutical ingredients, are another target sector.

The same core optical microchip sensors can be used in biodetection applications, but in these instances the sensing elements are functionalized using biorecognition elements such as immunoassays.

"Using an immunoassay on a multi-element sensing chip allows individual sensing elements to specifically detect the biological entity against which they have been functionalized," noted Williams. "That means that the biodetector chips can simultaneously screen for multiple biological entities of interest within a liquid sample."

Originally a spin-out from the University of Southampton, UK, Stratophase has been well placed to weather the economic slowdown thanks to the novelty of its technology, according to Williams.

"We predominantly work with either high-technology companies or the development sections of larger companies, and in general they hold the view that continuing to invest in new developments during a recession is essential."

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