SCIENTISTS in the North-East have developed groundbreaking diamond-driven technology, capable of making renewable energy affordable on a mass scale for the first time.

Evince Technology Ltd, based in the Printable Electronics Technology Centre, NetPark, Sedgefield, has developed a diode capable of converting electricity, including that from wind turbines and photovoltaics more simply and cheaply than existing devices.

At present, electricity has to be converted using numerous silicon devices, each able to take only 3,300volts, and transformers. But the five pence-sized diode developed by Evince only needs a single diamond strip, grown in the lab, to control 15,000volts, the level of voltage coming from the National Grid.

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Renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaics – power from the sun, wind power and tidal power – are more difficult and expensive than traditional power sources to put into the national grid because the amount of power they create fluctuates.

Dr Gareth Taylor, Evince Technology’s chief executive , said: “What you find with renewables is that they don’t generate power in a way that is designed to go straight into the grid, the power fluctuates.

“Presently you need a box of electronics with these big silicon transistors and you need lots of them to control the power.

“Our technology replaces a lot of those devices with one device and that drives the cost down.”

Dr Taylor, who has spent ten years working on the system which uses a diamond strip just half a millimetre thick, added: “Governments across the globe are placing great faith in the ability of renewable energy to halt the effects of global warming.

“However, until these energy sources are commercially viable their take-up will be slow.

“Evince’s diamond electronics switches are likely to be the first devices worldwide that are capable of switching at utility distribution voltages and will have a dramatic impact on energy generation costs.”

Evince chairman Dr Neil Loxley added: “If you use a typical system it makes renewable energy too expensive to put into the grid, that is why we are making such a bold claim. It still needs more development but it is possible now to produce a device.

“You don’t need transformers and you can manipulate the power in whatever way you want.”

The system also has the potential to benefit any electrically- powered machine, such as a train.

Without the need for silicon devices and transformers it would lead to a massive simplification of the design its power control systems and ultimately halve their cost.

The company plans to release its first commercial product late next year, a 10,000volt diode.

It is in the process of raising £2m of new venture capital funding, having been funded to date by venture capital from Northstar Equity Investors, Imperial Innovations and Carbon Trust Investments.

It has also secured a Proof of Concept loan from NStar and Berr research and development grants from One North East, as well as support from the Carbon Trust Business Incubator scheme.

Ian Williams, director of susiness and industry at One North East, which provided £350,000 of funding, said: “This is an exciting product that is both novel and highly innovative, and has very promising exploitation prospects.

“This announcement is another boost not only for the region’s growing reputation in the new and renewable energy sector, but also for North- East England’s wider low carbon economy which has seen more than £1bn of planned investments announced this summer.”