We make fancy detectors” – as Erik Maddox, our senior application scientist semi-jokingly phrased during one of the workshops on mission statements. But actually that’s precisely what we do at ASI!
Since 2011 we design and build detector solutions that enable scientists in chemistry, physics, materials science and biology to take their research to the next level. Detectors are a strategic component in analytical instruments. Better detectors allow faster data acquisition, push detection limits and improve sensitivity. Nearly all scientists use detectors every day – but don’t necessarily get excited by the device itself.
We at ASI make detectors accessible by turning cutting-edge technology into devices that are easy to use, easy to integrate, maintenance-free and adaptable to every possible setup so that scientists can focus on their research, not on the instrument.
Our core technology, the hybrid pixel detector has enabled breakthrough research in various disciplines such as electron diffraction in TEM, neutron detection at reactor beamlines or VMI in fundamental physical chemistry labs. Have a look at our reference publications to get inspired!
ASI was established in 2011 when Jan Visser, Niels van Bakel and Hans Roeland Poolman decided that the world of science needs access to the Medipix technology from CERN. The Medipix2 collaboration had introduced two novel detector chips called Medipix-2 and Timepix-1. Both chips were designed for X-ray detection, e.g. at synchrotron beamlines but it became clear that the chip would also be very useful for transmission electron microscopy and ion detection. Both chips are traditional frame-based detectors, despite the name ‘Timepix’, but even in these early years the technology was focused on speed and sensitivity.
In the early years ASI resided at the Nikhef building, sharing many resources with the Nikhef development group. The proximity to Nikhef and close collaboration allowed ASI to rapidly develop the first X-ray detection systems. The first ASI detectors were delivered in 2012 to SLAC (Stanford) and Princeton, using the Timepix-1 chip.
At the same time AMOLF researcher Ron Heeren (now distinguished professor at M4I in Maastricht) identified the potential of pixelated time-of-flight detectors for imaging mass spectrometry. He established the Omics2Image startup, focusing on the development of Timepix-1-based detectors for imaging-TOF-MS. Omics2Image was later integrated with ASI in order to accelerate the detector development based on the more advanced Timepix-3 chip.
In 2013 ASI started to build detectors based on CERN’s Medipix3 collaboration, which developed the Medipix-3 and Timepix-3 chip. The Medipix-3 chip turned out to be extremely useful for 3D-ED in TEM to solve crystal structures of nanomaterials in TEM thanks to the superior detection limits and high frame rate. The Timepix-3 chip came with a fundamentally different concept: time-resolved event-detection. The time resolution of 1.56 nanoseconds immediately would improve TOF-MS detection – but where else would such a detector be useful?
In 2015 the ASI team defined two product lines: CheeTah for electron detectors and LynX for X-ray detectors.
In 2017 the ownership structure of ASI changed. The serial entrepreneurs Hans Brouwer and Steven Tan joined the management team with the aim to take the company to the next level. They introduced the TPX3CAM, an optical detector system that took advantage of the time-resolved event detection mode. The concept was initially suggested by Andrei Nomerotski and has been successfully applied in numerous research areas such as VMI, FLIM/PLIM, single-photon detection or neutron imaging.
In 2019 ASI it became clear that the office and manufacturing at Nikhef was too small to meet the increased demand for detector manufacturing. ASI moved into the new Matrix VII building at the Amsterdam Science Park. The new building allowed to scale up and add many more employees to the team.