Funding secured and product presented – A positive end to the year for QnamiSNI INSight December 2019, Success Stories
Qnami, a fledgling start-up from the SNI network, has received some excellent news in recent weeks: the young company not only presented ProteusQ, its quantum microscope for the analysis of magnetic materials, but has also secured an investment of over CHF 2.6 million to launch the platform and continue its development. These are the ideal circumstances for the team, which now numbers ten, to begin supplying the device to beta testers and processing orders at the start of next year.
A market-ready product
Qnami was founded in November 2017 by Professor Dr. Patrick Maletinsky, Dr. Mathieu Munsch, Dr. Felipe Favaro, and Dr. Alexander Stark.
The company aims to develop quantum solutions for high precision measurements. After 2 years of development, Qnami presented ProteusQ, a first quantum platform for material analysis in nanometer resolution. This device, which the team debuted at the Material Research Society Fall Exhibition in Boston in the first week of December, will allow a broad range of scientists and engineers to study the magnetic properties of their materials in a quantitative and non-perturbative way.
“With ProteusQ, we want to help scientists and R&D engineers to develop advanced materials for future applications in electronics or healthcare,” says Mathieu Munsch, CEO of Qnami, in our interview.
“It was important to us that our customer would benefit from quantum performance while using an environment that is familiar to them. Our collaboration with Horiba – a well-known manufacturer and global distributor of atomic force microscopes – plays an important role in this regard.” This allows Qnami to build on existing expertise and customers to work with proven systems while also benefiting from a significantly more powerful device.
“The magnetic properties of materials play an important role in modern electronics, but they’re often poorly understood, in particular at sub-micron scale,” says Mathieu Munsch. “Our technology allows customers to open a new eye on these questions.”
In November 2019, Qnami also managed to secure a round of funding that will safeguard the device’s launch and further development. The round was led by Quantonation, a venture capital fund specializing in quantum technology and further supported by the Swiss venture capital company investiere, the German investment firm High-Tech Gründerfonds, the start-up financing program of Zürcher Kantonalbank, and private business angels – who crucially also contribute their industry experience. Overall, Qnami has over CHF 2.6 million at its disposal.
Based on diamonds
At the heart of the ProteusQ platform are tiny quantum sensors made of diamonds with deliberate vacancies in their crystal lattices. These “nitrogen-vacancy centers” (NV centers) host individual electrons that can be controlled. Magnetic fields acting on these “trapped” electrons cause a change in their intrinsic angular momentum (spin) which can be detected optically.
The micrometer sized diamonds are attached to a tiny cantilever probe and integrated into an atomic force microscope. “As the material’s surface is scanned, an image gradually emerges of the magnetic fields in nanoscale resolution,” explains Alexander Stark, who is responsible for the instrument development. “It’s possible to study a wide range of materials – even the most delicate, atomically thin structures. In principle, they’re even suitable for biological materials, as they don’t interact with the material being analyzed.”
Numerous achievements in recent months
The principles underlying the technology originate from Patrick Maletinsky’s lab at the Department of Physics of the University of Basel. In recent months, Qnami has covered considerable ground, moving from a research platform to the market-ready product that is now available.
Staff with suitable qualifications first had to be identified and recruited, and the team has now grown to ten members, including quantum engineers and experienced business people – each of whom is an expert in their field and yet an all-rounder and team player prepared to take on a range of different tasks.
There were then a number of technical hurdles to overcome. As part of the Nano Argovia project NQsense, for example, Felipe Favaro worked with colleagues from the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) to optimize production of the diamond sensors and boost the light yield of the diamonds. “With the Nano Argovia project, we not only succeeded in improving production to the necessary standard but also gained a new team member in Gediminas Seniutinas,” says Mathieu Munsch.
Dr. Gediminas Seniutinas was involved in NQsense as a postdoc at the PSI and is now responsible for clean-room production of the diamond sensors at Qnami.
Thanks to numerous further optimizations, both large and small, ProteusQ is now not only ready for use but also suitable for sale in its current form. In 2020, Qnami therefore will open its application lab so that customers from all over the world can use the quantum microscope and measure the benefits for their own applications.