17 August 2017
Shaping the world with sensor solutions
About electronic senses
One of the companies that has established itself in the Mμ building at TWICE Eindhoven is part of ams, an Austrian chip manufacturer. Last year, ams took over the Cmos Sensors Department from NXP, where employees develop environmental sensors that can be used to measure various environmental factors, such as relative humidity, air pressure and temperature. ams is working hard to transform itself from a chip manufacturer into a company that manufactures sensors and total system solutions. The company has a total of 2,100 employees worldwide, spread over 20 countries.
Martin Valkenburg is the director of ams in the Netherlands. “ams gained a presence in the Netherlands when it took over our department. It was interested in NXP's technology, but also wanted to join other companies at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, where it would be able to benefit from all of the synergies that are possible here. Examples include the Holst Centre, the Philips innovation services and the Strip. In short: the entire infrastructure at HTCE. We chose to locate this department in the Mμ building because it serves as office space on the one hand, while being set up to function as a laboratory on the other hand. We were able to move in virtually straight away. It's a practical and representative building. A great place to work."
Martin:” A sensor is a component that you can use to measure what's happening in the outside world: light, air, humidity, gas, pressure or magnetic fields, for example. A sensor consists of a thin piece of silicon coated with a sensitive layer. Changes in this layer are converted into an electronic signal. A sensor works much as our senses do. In this department, we concentrate primarily on measuring humidity, air pressure, temperature and gas. We develop sensors entirely ourselves. From start to finish. The applications are huge, if not limitless. This is also be achieved by applying combinations of sensors.”
Three sensors are lying on the table in front of us. Each one is smaller than a grain of sugar. Martin: “Together, these pressure, humidity and temperature sensors form a barometer that you can use to forecast the weather. Let's take this summer as an example: how often has the weather actually been forecast correctly? The coastline was bathed in glorious sunshine, but just 10 kilometres further inland, torrential rain meant that the situation could not have been any more different. These weather forecasts are based on a number of crude measurement points. If we integrate these sensors into your mobile phone, you gain a precise and reliable weather station that provides detailed information wherever you go. And you'll never need to worry about whether or not to take an umbrella with you ever again.”
"The applications are big. If not limitless"
“Air quality can be measured by combining a humidity sensor with a gas sensor”, Martin continues. “You might want to integrate these sensors into a thermostat, for example. Normally, a thermostat will only regulate the temperature. However, with the addition of these two sensors, you are also able to measure air humidity and air quality and adjust airco systems accordingly. There is a big demand for this type of application in Asia in particular. And how about the air quality in school buildings, production halls or cars? If there is too much CO2 in the air, it affects concentration and labour productivity. Measure to manage. You can avoid situations like this by integrating sensors into air purifiers, for example.”
Smaller, cheaper and bigger volumes
Martin: “The sensors that we develop are becoming ever smaller and are very energy efficient. They are also becoming cheaper and we are able to produce them in large volumes. We are one of the market leaders in this type of sensor. I expect sensor solutions to really take off in the near future.”
As a notice on the notice board in the hall says: ‘Failure is so much more fun than never having tried at all’. Martin: “This saying is perfect for our great company, which employs a lot of ‘mad professors’, highly-qualified technology specialists like chemists, physicists and process technologists. And no, it's not our intention to keep making the same mistakes. It's fine to make mistakes and fail, as long as you learn from your mistakes and failures.”
The Mμ building
High Tech Campus 10
5656 AE Eindhoven
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