Phlux Technology secures £4m funding for ‘world leading’ sensors

Sheffield University spin-out Phlux Technology has secured deep tech investor backing to bring its infrared sensors to the mass market.

Phlux has developed a single element sensor with ‘world leading’ sensitivity that is retrofittable into today’s LIDAR systems
Phlux has developed a single element sensor with ‘world leading’ sensitivity that is retrofittable into today’s LIDAR systems - Phlux Technology

The company, designers of high-performance sensors that surpass the capabilities of silicon-based sensors, has secured £4m in seed funding in a round led by Octopus Ventures. 

Phlux has developed infrared sensors using antimony, which improves their performance in LiDAR, the technology behind the control and navigation of autonomous machines including cars and robots. 

According to Sheffield University, the sensors are the world’s first antimony-based LiDAR sensor chips with architecture that is 10 times more sensitive and has 50 per cent more range compared to silicon-based sensors. Its design also reduces the cost of manufacture of LiDAR sensors, opening them up to mass market adoption.

In a statement, Ben White, CEO and co-founder of Phlux Technologies, said: “Our ambition is to become the Nvidia of the sensor market, starting off with delivering the world’s first LiDAR sensor chip using antimony. 

“Industry will never achieve full autonomy with LiDAR if it relies on silicon-based sensors, so our approach will reshape the sensor market for robotics and self-driving machines.”

Infrared sensors, such as those that Phlux is building, have applications beyond LiDAR in satellite communications and enabling Internet in remote regions, fibre telecoms, autonomous vehicles, gas sensing and quantum communications.


Investors backing the start-up include Northern Gritstone, the investment company chaired by Lord O'Neill that is seeking to boost the commercialisation of university spin-outs in northern England.

Duncan Johnson, CEO, Northern Gritstone, said: “Phlux Technology is a fantastic example of the exciting new generation of science and technology businesses in the North of England turning research into reality. The company’s innovative approach demonstrates how world beating technology, with the potential to change entire industries, is emerging from the Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester triangle.”

Investors also include the Foresight Williams Technology Fund, the Innovation Fund, industry specific angels and grant funding from Innovate UK. 

Phlux Technology was founded by CEO Ben White, Professor Jo Shien Ng and Professor Chee Hing Tan, who met at the Sheffield University where they researched novel semiconductor materials and devices for infrared detection. Unlike Moore’s Law for semiconductors, infrared sensors (InGaAs) have reached a plateau in terms of performance. 

The founders identified antimony as a material capable of transforming the LiDAR sensor market as it opens access to the 1550nm infrared space, offering higher sensitivity and capacity as it operates in the ‘eye safe’ region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Well over 1,000 times more photons can safely be launched compared to silicon-based emitters, enabling antimony-based sensors to see further, with greater pixel density at a mass market cost. 

In the first stage of commercialisation, Phlux has developed a single element sensor with ‘world leading’ sensitivity that is retrofittable into today’s LIDAR systems and will be part of the Phyllo series product line. 

Longer term Phlux said it is building an integrated subsystem and array modules forming a high-performance sensor toolkit and over the next year, it will grow its engineering team.