In a tokamak, the level if impurities in plasma is a crucial parameter. Indeed, if it is too high, the beam of neutral particles will be slowed, and not enough energy will reach the centre of the plasma. On the other hand, if impurity content is too low, the neutral beam could potentially damage inner wall components. Wouter Vijvers, who worked at the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) and the Swiss Plasma Center (SPC), developed a novel imaging diagnostic known as MANTIS (Multispectral Advanced Narrowband Tokamak Imaging System) to address this technical challenge. Supported by EUROfusion and tested at the TCV in Switzerland (Tokamak à Configuration Variable, literally “variable configuration tokamak”), the solution can resolve the 2D distribution of the spontaneous emitted light by 10 individual spectral lines throughout the full plasma edge at high speed and the data is acquired and processed in real time. These multispectral and real-time capabilities can provide detailed overview of the conditions of the fusion plasma such as the density, the temperature and the presence of impurities in the plasma. This allows for controlling the reactor and directing the plasma towards optimal conditions.

A real time multispectral solution for automated sorting of fruits and vegetables  

Machine vision plays an increasing role in industrial inspection. Despite its obvious interest compared to usual machine vision cameras (since it combines imaging and spectroscopy), spectral imaging has not yet seen widespread adoption in commercial applications. This is due to the fact that all available solutions either require multiple consecutive image acquisition or provide insufficient spatial and spectral resolution for industrial inspections.

With its real time and multispectral capabilities, MANTIS can be an accelerator of this technology beyond fusion applications. Convinced of the market potential of his solution, Wouter decided to create the spin-off company Chromodynamics. While maintaining close collaboration with fusion (multiyear contract to develop a spectroscopic instrument based on the same core technology for ITER), Chromodynamics is now involved in several projects for medical, high-speed Raman imaging spectroscopy, pharmaceutical and semiconductor applications.

The spin-off is currently targeting automated sorting of fruits and vegetables, where MANTIS could provide a real competitive advantage by distinguishing in real time between purely aesthetic imperfections and real defects in the product. Food waste and the associated CO2 emissions will then be greatly reduced throughout the food supply chain. This niche market could represent several thousand cameras per year, of which Chromodynamics projects to capture a significant share in the near to mid-term future. To better fit with the requirements of in-line industrial inspection, Chromodynamics is re-engineering the camera and lining up for further investment to complete the development of a new prototype and first product, which will be more compact and easier to integrate.

Sustainability, recognition, profitability and network, the advantages of working for ITER 

Since mid-2020, Chromodynamics has been self-sustaining in terms of revenue with 3 FTEs, thanks to a multi-year contract for the development of a spectroscopic instrument for ITER. The success of this research program, along with the ITER network, has made the solution one of the most requested diagnostics in support of EUROfusion research. Derived systems are deployed in several other tokamaks. Finally, the contract with ITER perpetuates the cutting-edge research approach and new scientific discoveries such as a high-speed Raman imaging microscope or the early detection and improved resection of malignant tumors.

Chromodynamicshas already received numerous awards recognizing its innovation, including second place in the Golden Lightbulb competition and the Gerard & Anton award for being one of the most promising startups of 2019 in Eindhoven and the surrounding area. These first successes allowed them to multiply their revenue by 4 between 2019-2020, and to consider by the end of 2021, a fundraising round to finance the industrialization of the product, which can have wide ranging impact on the efficient manufacturing, increased lifetime and eventually recycling capabilities of industrial products.