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Perth-based company develops optical MEMS reader for mining applications

Panorama Synergy has demonstrated the viability of its laser-based Optical Readout System, the LumiMEMS Reader.

In partnership with the University of Western Australia (UWA), Panorama Synergy has developed a patented optical reader for Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) which enables the detection and measurement of previously undetectable substances.

As a result, the Company has commenced the development first generation systems for potential new end market applications.

All MEMS devices need a readout system to assess and communicate the data that is measured. Currently MEMS readers measure and communicate information electronically, which is subject to interference from electrical ‘noise’ from nearby devices and the environment. The only alternative technology, which is more sensitive and therefore more accurate, is an optical system using a laser directed at a MEMS sensor.

However, these are currently only able to operate in laboratories due to their size (similar to that of a washing machine), sensitivity to vibration, and the need to precisely align the laser with the tip of the tiny MEMS sensor. In addition, these readers can usually only measure one, or very few MEMS sensors at a time.

By contrast, Panorama’s LumiMEMS Reader is a portable and autonomous readout system which combines the accuracy and sensitivity of the optical reader with the size and portability of the electrically based system, without the shortcomings of interference from noise or vibration.

It is therefore able to be deployed in harsh environments such as down a drill hole or inside the cylinder shaft of a car engine, being much more heat resistant than an electrical system.

In addition, a chip that has several hundred MEMS sensors can be read simultaneously by one LumiMEMS Reader, therefore it is statistically more accurate than laboratory mounted optical systems.

The MEMS market is estimated to be $14 billion in 2014, growing to over $22 billion by 2018, a CAGR of 13% per annum. These estimates do not include the potential for opening new markets.

The LumiMEMS Reader is able to operate in air, water and other fluids or in a vacuum, therefore can be applied to bed side patient care, the detection of lung cancer, detecting peanuts in food, dangerous gases and other substances in mines, carbon monoxide inside a car or even schizophrenia from someone’s perspiration.

Panorama believes its LumiMEMS Reader is capable of becoming the new industry standard as the MEMS market continues to develop.

Terrence Walsh, Managing Director of Panorama Synergy said: “Our LumiMEMS Reader provides unparalleled accuracy and sensitivity and has a similar or even lower cost base to anything available in the market today. 

"Therefore, as with the move from electrical to optical in the telecommunications world, we would anticipate the LumiMEMS Reader to become the de-facto readout system for the rapidly growing MEMS market.”

“Further, it creates the potential to open up a new wave of MEMS devices that can detect almost anything which is chemical or biological in nature. It has the potential to transform industry and everyday life as we know it,” he said.

Panorama anticipates that one of its initial first generation systems will be applicable to the mining sector, targeting improved exploration outcomes and safety. These systems are being developed in a prototype format with a view to being licenced or manufactured as end products. Test results are likely to be published as soon as the fourth quarter of the 2014 calendar year.

At the same time, Panorama has commenced early discussions with interested parties concerning specific requirements that the LumiMEMS reader may enable for the first time.

Research teams around the world continue to create new functionalization layers, coatings which are applied to MEMS sensors to determine which agent they are programmed to detect. Any substance that can have its functionalization material determined, can then be detected.

Panorama has numerous patents for its technology across Australia, US and Europe which provides it with commercial exclusivity to 2028. 

[Image: Panorama Synergy]

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