This feasibility study was undertaken under Horizon 2020 SMEInst-04-2016-2017: Engaging SMEs in space research and development. Specifically the focus of the study was to evaluate the market opportunity and freedom to operate for a highly novel cold cathode electron source...
This feasibility study was undertaken under Horizon 2020 SMEInst-04-2016-2017: Engaging SMEs in space research and development. Specifically the focus of the study was to evaluate the market opportunity and freedom to operate for a highly novel cold cathode electron source (DCC) utilising diamond primarily for use in Travelling Wave Tubes (TWTâ€™s), which are still the mainstay of power microwave communications in telecommunications satellites and broadcast communications.
The DCC offers some compelling advantages over the incumbent thermionic electron source technology in terms of: massively reduced energy requirement to drive the electron source (hundreds of watts down to a few watts or less); increased beam current density (i.e. power that can extracted from the TWT); far greater robustness; and, potentially much longer operational lifetime. Together the DCC represents an enabling technology that could increase satellite data communications bandwidth and extend satellite operating lifetimes, thereby addressing the societal demand for increased data capacity.
The overall objective of the feasibility study was to validate the business proposition for the DCC for TWT and space based applications. While space applications are attractive as a high value market, it was recognised early on in the study that for a technology at an early stage of commercial development both supply chain â€“ in particular security supply of substrate materials â€“ and non-space early market adopters would also have to be explored to ensure sustainable exploitation. Therefore the study quickly broadened out to include related terrestrial applications that would provide earlier sources of product revenue while the technology went through qualification for space use. This extension to the original scope thereby ensuring that a commercially sustainable and investable case for the DCC could be constructed.
The work undertaken focused on an initial desk based research project followed by meetings held with space related companies and organisations such as ESA, Airbus and TMD Technologies. In addition meetings were held with non-space related but significant users of electron sources such as CERN, Nikon Metrology and X-Ray Worx. Based on these meetings we were able to define the market opportunity for DCC components into two groups with similar product characteristics:
â€¢ Very small spot size, but high brightness sources for applications such as electron microscopy, nano- and micro-focus x-ray systems and advanced lithography
â€¢ High current density sources for TWT (and other high frequency electron devices), ion thrusters, electron beam materials processing.
Based on an assessment of the needs, it was determined that the core technology could be developed to meet both markets, both of who are primarily driven by performance and a recognition that the current technology is a limiting factor in moving electron devices to higher efficiency and robustness. In an addition a priority matrix has been established to ensure the business focuses resources on a mix of near term and longer-term opportunities that align to a common development roadmap.
A freedom to operate study was also undertaken, which established that DCC technology is indeed unique and highly novel.
The information gathered has now been used to develop a solid-business case for a c. â‚¬10m - â‚¬15m investment, which is now being presented to interested parties.
The feasibility study has identified that Evinceâ€™s DCC technology could grow the present estimated â‚¬750m electron source market to c. â‚¬1.8bn market by 2028. This market would be driven by performance and reliability considerations of the OEM systems integrators, which recognises that the incumbent thermionic technology is by far and away the weakest part of what are often complex systems with high cost of downtime.
A direct outcome of the project is that the company has been able to properly engage with ESA, who have recognised the impact that DCCâ€™s could have on both satellite communications and ion thrusters leading to an initial exploratory project that is expected to commence in September 2018.
As a result of the roadmap for electron sources that has been developed by the project, the company gas now developed a business plan that will seek to raise sufficient capital to establish a small pilot manufacturing facility, which is expected to create 20 new jobs by the end of 2019.
More info: http://www.evincetechnology.com.