MAGICS Instruments was formed in late October 2015 as a spin-off company of the KU Leuven and the Belgian Nuclear Reseach Centre (SCK•CEN) and continues to build on seven years of research in both institutions. MAGICS Instruments has developed advanced technology to ensure that electronic devices can still function under exceptionally strong radiation (e.g. in space or the nuclear sector).
Exposure to radiation reduces the lifespan of electronics. MAGICS Instruments has developed chips which are highly resistant to radioactive radiation and other electromagnetic radiation of over 1 Mega Gray . MAGICS Instruments chips continue to function reliably in high radiation environments up to a thousand times longer. The pioneering technology from MAGICS Instruments also offers unprecedented opportunities for the use of electronics for interventions during nuclear accidents, nuclear reactor inspections, dismantling of old nuclear power plants, disposal of radioactive waste, space travel missions, and new nuclear developments such as nuclear fusion or the MYRRHA research reactor.
‘MAGICS Instruments is the missing link between the semi-conductor industry and the nuclear industry,’ says joint founder Jens Verbeeck, CEO of MAGICS Instruments. ‘Our technology has proved itself on several occasions during assignments from nuclear companies and opens the door to a whole range of electronic applications in nuclear environments. Our chips make it possible to deploy robots and inspection tools in nuclear power plants to carry out operations which involve risk to people’s lives. In case of nuclear disasters such as in Fukushima, our technology also offers tremendous added value.’
The development of a chip with high radiation resistance opens up many commercial opportunities. In the medium to long term, MAGICS Instruments is aiming to offer total solutions for specific nuclear applications, such as the dismantling of nuclear power plants and the management of nuclear waste. ‘It is our ambition to launch not only electronic components, but also integrated recording modules on the market,’ says CEO Jens Verbeeck.
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Since 2008, the founders of MAGICS Instruments, Jens Verbeeck and Ying Cao, have built up their knowledge, especially for the development of the MYRRHA reactor, under the guidance of professors Paul Leroux and Michiel Steyaert (Department of Electronics at the KU Leuven) and Wouter de Cock and Ludo Vermeeren (Instrumentation and Control Research unit of SCK•CEN). The founders of the spin-off and researchers from SCK•CEN have developed the drafts for testing the chips with extremely high doses of gamma radiation.
SCK•CEN made the radiation facilities of reactor BR2 available and also granted access to its extensive knowledge of the effects of radiation on materials. Vincent Massaut, Deputy-Director of Business Development & Support at SCK•CEN, is on the executive board of MAGICS Instruments. His vast experience in fusion research and, previously, in dismantling nuclear installations, where such sensors will be useful, will be valuable.
Eric van Walle, SCK•CEN Director-General: ‘We regularly offer doctorate students facilities for the research which they do. Excellent ideas which can benefit society often have their origins in scientific research. An excellent idea or product isn’t enough on its own. There’s also a need for a locomotive. Scientists who themselves believe enthusiastically that an idea is commercially viable.’
‘KU Leuven Research & Development (LRD) gives entrepreneurial researchers advice during the foundation phase of their spin-off company and helps them to convert an idea into a fully fledged business. LRD has been involved with the launch of over a hundred companies. We’re justifiably proud of the fact that MAGICS Instruments has created a completely new global market with its technology,’ David Germompré, innovation manager of the KU Leuven Research & Development department, explains.
The founders, SCK•CEN, KU Leuven, and the Gemma Frisius Fonds have invested € 350,000 in MAGICS Instruments nv. The company now numbers 2 employees. By 2020, MAGICS Instruments is aiming for a team of 10 employees and a turnover of € 3,000,000.
1 Gray is the unit of absorbed radiation dose of ionizing radiation. The current state-of-the-art radiation-hard chips can usually cope with about 10,000 grays (1 Mega = 1,000,000).
From left to right:
Vincent Massaut, Deputy-Director of Business Development & Support at SCK•CEN
Jens Verbeeck, Chief executive officer & Director of MAGICS Instruments
Ying Cao, Chief technology officer & Director of MAGICS Instruments
Eric van Walle, SCK•CEN Director-General