A progressive UK-based start-up, Zero Point Motion, is currently developing innovative high-performance sensors for navigation and precise positioning applications. Founded by Dr. Ying Lia Li in 2020, the early-stage start-up has set out to develop cost-effective chip-scale optical sensors that can be mass-produced.
Utilizing a combination of MEMS and PIC technology, Zero Point Motion’s optical sensors can generate a photonic readout of motion, which offers several unique advantages.
These include harnessing the quantum properties of light to create hardware solutions and devices that sense motion with 10,000 times greater precision than in today’s consumer MEMS devices, such as smartphones.1
Furthermore, with Li’s extensive research background and industry experience, the early-stage start-up is well-equipped to overcome the challenges faced in the high-profile sensor industry.
Li completed a PhD in experimental quantum physics at University College London, as well as winning two prestigious merit-based scholarships.
The first was awarded to Li by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in 2017, enabling her to investigate sensor applications utilizing whispering gallery mode resonances. The other was awarded to Li by the Royal Academy of Engineering Intelligence Community in 2019, allowing her to initiate the prototyping of optomechanical sensors.2
Throughout her career and research, Li has produced pioneering work, including the invention of a type of chip-assisted plastic optical fiber printing method (patents granted in US & UK), as well as for her well-established innovation in optomechanics.
This kind of experience is what led to Li setting up the Zero Point Motion start-up in the hope of commercializing optomechanics, in particular the fabrication of sensors for applications, including positioning and navigation, as well as structural and health monitoring.
However, Li knew that constantly depending on research grants and funding for projects can be a precarious situation. Thus, to upscale production and produce significant volumes of optical sensors, careful management of the supply chain is vital.
Therefore, Lia recruited the help of two experts in the development of wireless chip technologies and low power ASICs, Pascal Herczog and Gordon Aspin, who are now Vice President and Executive Chairman of operations, respectively.
Both Aspin and Herczog have a wide array of experience and knowledge in technologies focused on targeted markets – including automotive and smartphone industries – as well as an understanding of how to manage and overcome the potential difficulties when transferring designs between foundries of different sizes.
This means that the start-up is strategically well-positioned to continually develop and shake up the market for high performance sensors for navigation and precision positioning.
The Future: Challenges & Expansion
Now, the primary objective for the start-up is to get its products to market as soon as possible and to start generating revenue. However, the company does not want to over-customize its products and instead intends to focus on establishing a standard line of sensors.
The challenge then becomes producing a standard line of sensors and devices that can be co-designed by simply introducing firmware updates or modifying algorithms in line with a given application.
Over the course of the next few years, the Zero Point Motion plans to open its own laboratory and offices and expand the current workforce to that of around twenty individuals. Additionally, the company has its sights set on producing two different variations of sensors with varying performance levels.
One line of sensor would focus on controlled movement seen in applications such as structural monitoring, image stabilization and industrial drones. The other line would concentrate its design on high-precision tracking over prolonged periods of time without GPS – enabling enhanced positioning and timing, regardless of connectivity.
Li has no doubt that the performance advantages of the start-up’s current MEMS, PIC and ASIC supply chain will meet these challenges and facilitate the future expansion and fulfill the demand of today’s market.
With the quantum industry already embracing Zero Point Motion’s devices, there is plenty of opportunity for Zero Point Motion’s high performance sensors to support innovation in the engineering and navigation industries.
References and Further Reading
- Startup Developing Chip-Scale Optical Sensors for Positioning & Navigation, Novus Light Today, https://www.novuslight.com/startup-developing-chip-scale-optical-sensors-for-positioning-navigation_N11884.html