Image: Dr Gareth Taylor, CEO of Evince at his NETPark base
AN INNOVATIVE technology company that could revolutionise the electronics market with its diamond-based electronic devices has won a €200k project with the European Space Agency (ESA) that could transform the way satellites are used in space.
Evince Technology, based at the North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, County Durham, is working on a nine-month ESA-backed project with Mars Space, a space engineering consultancy, on developing its technology to deliver electron sources for use within electric propulsion systems for the space and satellite sector.
Evince is developing a process whereby it can embed tens of thousands of nano-scale electron emitters in a diamond substrate that could act as an electron source to replace the thermionic, or heated source, currently used within the propulsion system. The work is being funded via the ESA’s General Support Technology Programme.
Dr Gareth Taylor, CEO of Evince, said: “The European Space Agency is a key enabling partner in getting our technology to market. Just changing one thing on a satellite, such as the propulsion system is a game changer but ESA recognises our technology could also be used in other areas, such as broadcast communications, lower power communications and for improved power management.
“This is a UK-based technology where this project is just the start and actually we could end up taking the world lead in it. People use the words ‘game changing’ a lot but our technology really does have the power to revolutionise 21st century electronics.”
Neil Wallace, ESA technical officer for the programme, said: “We’re very excited by the development and keen to see the first coupling tests in the ESTEC Electric Propulsion Laboratory with a functioning thruster.”
Evince has a small in-house engineering team coupled with an established and growing network of academic and industrial partnerships, and has offices and a lab at NETPark, which is run by Business Durham, the economic development organisation for County Durham, which works on behalf of Durham County Council.
Catherine Johns, innovation director at Business Durham, said: “It’s a very exciting time for Evince as its revolutionary technology could have vast impacts on many different markets. It’s fantastic to see them at the stage where they’re working on so many applications and getting the funding they deserve to scale their business up from their base at NETPark.”
Evince was founded in 2008, then re-structured in 2013 to focus on the development of its core technology to enable the manufacture of a range of synthetic diamond-based electronics devices. The company secured £750k of new investment in September 2016, and has since secured more than £1.3m of additional funding from its existing network of private investors and via technology grants and industrial partnerships.
The company’s technology has the power to realise electronics using synthetic diamond – which is 1,000 times purer than the naturally occurring mineral. Low-cost synthetic diamond offers the potential to create devices that are up to 100 times faster than silicon, as well as being more energy efficient and to offer a unique dual ability to withstand very high voltages across thin layers of the material while conducting heat five times better than copper. Diamond is also inherently radiation hard and more able to operate in harsh environments with far less degradation over time, hence its appeal to the space industry.
In July this year, Evince began working with companies in Denmark and Germany on a £1.42m project to use its technology in industrial X-ray sources which could lead to the world’s first diamond-based X-ray tube systems.
Said Gareth: “The RADICLE X-Ray collaboration will use our diamond-based technology in two different parts of an X-ray system – in the electron source and high voltage generator for the X-ray tube system, and also within its associated power supply.
“Our aim is to license our technology to major industrial partners across multiple sectors so they can exploit our ‘unique practical approach’ to deliver a completely new class of electronics devices. And to help a broad range of industries benefit from the vastly superior thermal and electronic properties that only diamond can offer.”