23 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

UK start-up raises £2m to develop high-temp piezo materials

The new Ionix materials can operate at much higher temperatures than conventional PZT piezo materials

A British start-up company specialising in novel high-performance piezoelectric materials and devices has raised £2m of funding to accelerate the commercialisation of a range of devices for applications such as condition monitoring, actuation and flow measurement in extreme environments.

Huddersfield-based Ionix Advanced Technologies is a spin-out from the University of Leeds. It has created a series of piezoelectric materials that can operate in high temperatures, and could be used in sensors, actuators and transducers for applications and markets that are unsuitable for conventional piezoelectrics.

Ionix says that its technologies will allow more efficient, safe and reliable process and inspection operations in extreme environments where existing technologies are unable to operate effectively. They could deliver significant productivity gains, as well as cost and energy savings.

Potential applications include monitoring of corrosion and the development of cracks. In actuator applications, the materials are claimed to out-perform traditional PZT (lead zirconate titanate) piezo materials by an order of magnitude.

The materials and derived devices are the subject of several international patent applications.

Ionix is initially targeting applications involving operating temperatures up to 420°C, including industrial processes, power generation, and the oil and gas sector. It reckons that these markets are worth more than £500m.

“Ionix exists because of the need for the industrial world to better monitor plant condition and performance in extreme environments,” says CEO, Dr David Astles. “The company has developed a range of promising materials and associated devices which fit with this challenge, and offer exciting opportunities in a range of applications.

“Our technology looks ideally placed to play a part in the drive to increase continuous condition monitoring, and we are gaining good traction in this area,” he adds. “We are looking for the right partners to realise our full potential.”

Ionix has raised the £2m of funding from the IP Group, ParkWalk and private sources.

The company has recently moved to the 3M Buckley Centre in Huddersfield, to support its growing operations, and to provide a base for its next phase of growth.

• When an electric voltage is applied to a piezoelectric ceramic material, it causes a small change in the material’s dimensions – and vice versa. Potential applications include motors, actuators, vibration dampening, frequency filtering, transformers and acoustic/vibration sensors.