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QMUL Professor wins £245,000 innovation prize

Professor Kevin Homewood, of the School of Physics and Astronomy, has won a £245,298 Brian Mercer Award for Innovation to further his research into silicon detectors.

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Professor Kevin Homewood
Professor Kevin Homewood

The prize, awarded by the Royal Society, will help Professor Homewood develop new technology that will enable silicon-based photodetectors to detect wavelengths of light which previously could only be detected by devices using highly toxic materials.

The future application of silicon photodetectors working at these wavelengths includes use in smart buildings and cities; reducing energy consumption, greenhouse emissions and pollution. It also widens the use of silicon photonics technology in areas such as human health, for example diagnostic breath testing. They could also be integrated with other silicon microelectronics which underpin information technology and the digital world as we currently know it.

Professor Homewood said: “The Brian Mercer Innovation Award will enable us to take our technology to the next value point. All good current mid infra-red detectors and cameras have to operate at cryogenic temperatures (typically 77K or -196°C). Our technology, because of the low leakage currents inherent in silicon diodes, has the potential to operate at much higher temperatures even up to room temperature. This would open up the mass environmental sensing market that is being driven by the emerging “Internet of Things”.”

Professor Hagan Bayley FRS, chair of the Brian Mercer Awards Panel, added: “Science has the potential to solve some of the great challenges we face, but only if we continue to invest in good ideas. Professor Homewood is working on technology which could extend the wavelength range of photodetectors into the infra-red with low-cost green materials. Such detectors will have a wide range of uses. The Royal Society is pleased to help move this technology a step closer to application.”

The Brian Mercer Award for Innovation is for scientists who wish to develop an already proven concept or prototype into a near-market product ready for commercial exploitation. The award is designed to promote innovation and fill the funding gap between scientific research and the exploitation of an idea through venture capital investment.

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