KE Proof of Concept Case Study

Project title - "Organic magnetoresistive transistors"

 “There is great potential for working with existing field sensor manufacturers. For now, we’re establishing as broad and firm a technical base as possible and protecting our IP so we can start to approach external partners.”

Professor Dan Allwood

Project partners          

Professor Dan Allwood
Materials Science and Engineering

Dr Martin Grell
Physics and Astronomy

Fusion IP

Overview
From the compass in a smartphone to motion sensors in cars, much modern technology uses magnetic sensors. But current motion field sensors used in various industries could be more sensitive. With the support of Proof of Concept funding, a team in Materials Science and Engineering is developing a hybrid magnetic/organic transistor that offers extremely large signals for greater sensitivity at a more moderate cost than other alternatives.

The Proof of Concept scheme supports academic staff to develop ideas that would benefit from a significant step forward in their route towards commercialisation and delivering impact. It enabled Professor Allwood and his team to get further data on their organic magnetoresistive transistor and explore the market potential.

Activities
Building on previous work by PhD student Had AlQahtani, the project investigated the changes in resistance of the transistor. This comprises two patterned magnetic contacts separated on a substrate by approximately 100nm, an organic semiconductor film and a gate voltage applied via a liquid electrolyte.

Proof of Concept funding enabled improvements in samples and instrumentation, creating a firm foundation for further research. A new electromagnet suitable for the tip-contact arrangement used for water gating allowed greater magnetic flux densities at high frequencies. Better sample measurement electronics increased accuracy. A new patterning process for the magnetic electrodes using state-of-the-art electron beam lithography facilities at the University of Leeds (through a White Rose Partnership grant) meant more precise fabrication.

Commercial potential
Fusion IP helped to identify the most straightforward route to get this technology to market. It found that developing the organic magnetoresistive transistor as a magnetic field sensor opens up the most opportunities, with possibilities in the automotive sector (valued to be around $1bn in 2016), mobile devices ($750m) and other industrial uses for motion control ($150m).

Next steps
To access the potential in the automotive sector, the team are seeking more Proof of Concept funding to test the sensor’s effectiveness at extreme temperatures. A patent has already been filed with the possibility of more to follow, and the team are looking at the best options for commercialising their work.

Professor Allwood said: “There is great potential for working with existing field sensor manufacturers. For now, we’re establishing as broad and firm a technical base as possible and protecting our IP so we can start to approach external partners.”