Modern industry relies upon gas control and vacuum technology to make a surprising number of products we encounter in daily life, like electronics, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, batteries, and eyeglasses. To maximize the return-on-investment for expensive manufacturing equipment, vacuum and gas sensors provide process feedback. The global market for vacuum sensors alone is more than $1B annually.
The startup Hexisense is commercializing a technology invented at EPFL to detect small air leaks in vacuum equipment. The sensor can detect miniscule amounts of oxygen down to one-billionth of the pressure of the air we breathe. Just like smart sensors and AI have combined to decrease unscheduled maintenance in the aviation industry – resulting in reduced flight delays – our vision is to power a similar revolution in capital-intensive industries like semiconductor chip production.
What is special about the project?
The sensor leverages new physics unique to gallium nitride semiconductors, the same material that lights our homes in LEDs, to pursue new applications with this industry-proven material. This sensing platform can overcome trade-offs with traditional sensors between gas selectivity, cost, and sensor size. With help from Innobooster, our technology is evolving and improving every day. While our first prototype is now available on the market, encouraging preliminary R&D results were obtained that open-up our sensor to new applications and larger markets. A few more steps before going beyond vacuum and address environmental challenges of the 21st century.
Hexisense was founded in 2019 and is now selling a small production series of vacuum sensor evaluation kits for testing with industrial partners. With EPFL, the combined team strongly on understanding the sensor physics to improve performance and expand applications.
Persons involved in the project
, project leader, postdoc EPFLIan Rousseau
, project coordinator, founder Hexisense
Prof. Nicolas Grandjean, academic host EPFL
Giovanni Santoruvo, support, electrical engineer Hexisense
Last update to this project presentation 04.11.2021