Sense of pH

A solid-state pH sensor technology invented at OxfordUniversityis to be further developed and commercialised by San Francisco Bay Area-based company Phathom Nanosensors.

Isis Innovation, OxfordUniversity’s technology-transfer company, has licensed the technology – originally developed for monitoring pH in oil wells – to Phathom, who will adapt it for other industries.

The first industrial application is expected to be pharmaceutical, but can be expanded into other industries such as water, food, drink and chemical manufacturing.

The technology was developed by Prof Richard Compton at Oxford’s Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory.

Lee Leonard, chief executive officer of Phathom, said: ‘This is an exciting project because this technology has the potential to disintermediate a market worth nearly a billion dollars annually, that is dominated by a 70-year-old technology.

‘Introduction of these sensors will be analogous to replacement of vacuum tubes with solid-state transistors.

‘With that comes the opportunity not only to improve existing processes already using pH measurement and control, but to address new opportunities where the existing technology cannot be used due to calibration, drift and mechanical limitations.’

Prof Compton said: ‘Our pH sensor technology has several key advantages over the glass electrode technology still widely used in industry. They are more accurate, enabling tighter control of pH-critical manufacturing processes.’

Co-inventor Dr Greg Wildgoose said: ‘The sensors are also self-calibrating, eliminating the problem of reading drift over time experienced with glass pH electrodes.’