VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed smart optical measuring
devices with companies for uses that include optimisation of vehicle engines,
reduction and monitoring of environmental emissions, and quality control of
pharmaceuticals. The FABRY research project aimed at utilisation of
VTT-developed technologies to enable commercialisation of new products on
global markets. So far, two of the companies involved – Rikola Ltd from
Finland and InnoPharma Labs from Ireland – have launched products of their
own. VTT’s technology makes it possible to miniaturise an entire measuring
laboratory to the size of a small sensor.
Originally, VTT developed these optical measurement technologies and the
associated micromechanical Fabry-Perot interferometer components for the
purpose of carbon dioxide measurements. The technology has many other
applications, however. VTT joined together with eight companies in the
Tekes-financed FABRY project in order to create business from the technology
in the form of new products.
In the course of the project, five of the companies started a product
development project of their own based on the project results. So far, two of
the companies have launched a new product on the market. Rikola Ltd
manufactures and sells the world’s smallest hyperspectral camera, which can be
used, for example, for surveying fertilisation and irrigation needs in
agricultural areas from UAVs. The Irish InnoPharma Labs manufactures Eyemap
cameras for the pharmaceutical industry, facilitating rapid verification of
the drug ingredients and their distribution in a tablet.
VTT is also in the process of establishing a spin-off company based on this
technology, with expected launch in May 2014.
“Apart from new business operations, optical measurement technology also has
an impact on employment. In the long run, this could create dozens, or maybe
even hundreds of new jobs in Finland,” says Jarkko Antila, Senior
Scientist at VTT, who has been coordinating the project.
Participants in the 2011–2014 FABRY project (Spectroscopic sensor devices
based on novel FABRY-Perot interferometers) coordinated by VTT were
Continental Automotive SAS from France (fuel measurements for the automotive
industry, onboard sensor); SICK AG from Germany (demanding industrial gas
measurements); InnoPharma Labs from Ireland (automatic quality management and
control for drug manufacturing in the pharmaceutical industry); Ocean Optics
from the United States (optical spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy); Murata
Electronics from Finland (sensor manufacturing for the automotive industry);
Rikola Ltd Oy from Finland (cameras for hyperspectral imaging ; manufacturing
of spectrometer modules); Okmetic Oyj from Finland (development and
manufacturing of high-quality silicon wafer for optical sensor applications)
and VTT Memsfab Ltd (manufacturing of MEMS components).
The principle of optical measurement, developed at the end of the 19th
century, is a widely used technique, for example in astronomy. Expensive
scientific instruments are used to identify and measure different materials
based on their characteristic spectral lines, thus obtaining information about
the composition of the target. VTT has combined this technology with
microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), creating an affordable, very small and
adjustable spectral filter. This makes it possible to miniaturise an entire
measuring laboratory to the size of a small sensor.
Figure 1: Special
industry-grade mirror structures realized in the project.
Figure 2: Tunable
MEMS-based Infrared filters.