OCT 19, 2023 12:15 PM PDT

Purdue University Startup, ZS Instruments, Secures $1 Million Grant for Precision Optical Encoder Innovation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded ZS Instruments, which is a startup connected to Purdue University, a 2-year/$1 million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to enhance the development of optical encoders that are used in a myriad of industries, including healthcare, computer science, and aviation. Optical encoders are sensors that convert the measurements of an object’s position into an electrical signal, which are known to have defects and errors embedded in them from traditional manufacturing processes. The purpose of this grant is to improve the accuracy of optical encoders and build on an 18-month NSF Phase I grant that developed a successful prototype.

Dr. Sergey Zakharov, co-founder and chief technology officer of ZS Instruments, is shown with an optical encoder wafer created prototype from an NSF Phase I grant. ZS Instruments was recently awarded a two-year, $1 million Phase II SBIR grant from the NSF to further enhance the technology. (Credit: ZS Instruments photo)

“Increasingly accurate encoders are needed to further innovate and enable the manufacturing of complex next-generation products, such as advanced microchips, high-resolution CT and MRI scanners, UAV guidance and tracking systems, high-accuracy industrial robots, and precision measuring instruments,” said Dr. Sergey Zakharov, who is a co-founder of ZS Instruments and an alumnus of Purdue. “As device miniaturization continues, design specifications become more stringent, and the need to fill the demand for high-precision position sensors and the nano-fabrication technology which enable them becomes paramount.”

Dr. Zakharov is collaborating with Dr. Alexander V. Kildishev of Purdue’s Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, with the latter being a sub-awardee of the Phase I grant and applied for an intellectual property patent after sharing information on the prototype with the Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization. Dr. Zakharov notes that potential applications for this innovative technology include advanced packaging and semiconductor chip manufacturing.

How will this new research grant help improve optical encoders, and how will these innovative encoders help shape the sensor industry in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: EurekAlert!, Purdue University

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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