Inside Plasma

British Science global impact – Oxford Instruments is ‘The Business of Science’

The business of Science

It’s British Science week this week and there are events all over the UK celebrating science and its impact on our lives.

Oxford Instruments is ‘The business of science’. Our products and services are enabled by science, developed by scientists, and used in laboratories all over the world. They are also out there in the world of business, where they are part of the fabrication processes for some of the most advanced microelectronic and optoelectronic devices.

The scientific process uses ‘peer review’, where experts in a field evaluate a peer’s technical article before it can be published in a recognised scientific journal, and several Oxford Instruments scientists regularly participate in this process as reviewers. Our products are our scientific ‘publications’, and our peer review is the market. Our company’s success depends on regular positive reviews by our customers.

The scientific method is also our method of developing new products. Before we can control something well enough to harness it, we must understand it. We use numerical modelling using multi-physics packages to reveal which areas of a design have the strongest impact on the performance, and so build more flexibility in prototypes in critical areas. Then an experimental phase tests the actual performance of a prototype and shakes out its weaknesses. Repeatability is a founding principle of science: if you can’t do the same thing twice using the same method, then you don’t understand it well enough. We spend time on marathon trials to demonstrate the repeatability of our thin film etching and deposition processes, and to define the cleaning and maintenance regimes necessary to turn science into an industrial process.

Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology is one business of Oxford Instruments plc. At its site just south of Bristol, there is a surprising concentration of over 20 members of staff with PhD’s, and a steady flow of innovations.  In the field of Atomic Scale Processing, we are currently developing atomic layer etching techniques to complement our atomic layer deposition processes. Not bad for a quiet North Somerset village.

We need scientists. Good luck to British Science week (And if we could develop luck in a bottle, wouldn’t that be a great product!)

For more information on British Science Week (10-19 March) visit www.britishscienceweek.org

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