A COMPANY behind a revolutionary science material is more than doubling its workforce as it aims to conquer an £800m global market.
Applied Graphene Materials (AGM), near Redcar, makes graphene, which can conduct electricity a million times better than copper, despite being as thin as a human hair.
Bosses are now taking on 15 workers, including engineers, scientists and production staff, as well as bolstering laboratory and office space to meet rising demand.
The company, which employs 10 people, produces graphene in powder form, and says it will be capable of producing up to 400 tonnes a year by 2017.
The plans come after the Wilton Centre firm last year raised £11m from floating on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
It is already working with renowned vacuum cleaner maker Dyson, and Procter and Gamble, the company behind Head and Shoulders shampoo and Fairy washing up liquid, on using graphene in consumer products.
The Government wants the UK to be a pioneer in graphene markets, which are expected to be worth about £800m by 2023.
Jon Mabbitt, AGM chief executive, said the company had to expand if it wanted to build on its market position.
He said: “Many industries have recognised the significant qualities graphene possesses.
“We have seen considerable interest from businesses that have seen the advantages of our production process, enabling us to continuously produce graphene cost efficiently on a commercial scale.
“The firm is now well positioned to meet the growing global appetite for graphene as a wonder material of the 21st century.
“Our admission to the stock market helped us with the funding for the next phase that will build our position as a global graphene maker.”
The company was founded by Professor Karl Coleman, a professor of inorganic chemistry at Durham University, and spun out in 2010.
The North-East has played a key role in the development of graphene since it was isolated by scientists at Manchester University in 2010.
A team from Durham University previously won the Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology for developing a cleaner way to produce graphene.
Chancellor George Osborne also handed the university extra funding to find commercial uses and refine production methods.
Steve Duffield, Wilton Centre site director, praised AGM's success.
He added: “We are very proud to have been able to support the company as it has expanded from its beginnings to a business requiring multiple laboratories and office space.
“We have worked hard to provide the firm with flexible and adaptable space, which has allowed it to focus on graphene production and moving the business forward.”
The company is the second Durham University spin-out to float on the AIM.
Kromek, based at NetPark, near Sedgefield, County Durham, successfully raised £15m to help win international business in the medical imaging, security screening and nuclear detection sectors.
WHAT IS GRAPHENE?
- Tougher than diamond yet ultralight, graphene is arranged in a honeycomb lattice, and is more transparent to light than any other known conductor
- A sheet of graphene stretched over a hole could support a ten-tonne truck Graphene is a one-molecule thick layer of graphite 100 times stronger than steel but six times lighter
- It is being developed for use in electronics, solar panels, body armour, non-stick pan coatings and mobile phone touchscreen displays
- Family-owned chemical firm Thomas Swan and Co, in Consett, County Durham, is also playing a leading role in graphene development
- The company, which began life in 1926 converting steel industry slag waste into road surfacing, signed a £625,000 four-year deal with Dublin's Trinity College to develop a process for making graphene on an industrial scale