A TECHNOLOGY firm developing a so-called wonder material has moved into anti-corrosive paints – a shift revealed by The Northern Echo.

Applied Graphene Materials (AGM) is working with a US paint maker to tackle corrosion.

The agreement comes after the company, based at the Wilton Centre, near Redcar, told The Northern Echo last year it was trialling ways to improve coatings’ durability to better protect vessels’ hulls.

Bosses say they are working with paint firm, Sherwin-Williams Protective and Marine Coatings, and corrosion management operation, TWI Limited, on the venture.

They added the scheme, co-funded by the Government’s innovation body, could have a major impact on corrosion, which is estimated to cost the UK economy about £10bn every year in repairs on equipment used in the construction, petrochemical and transport sectors.

As well as paints, graphene can be used as an additive in lubricants to improve performance, and experts say it can conduct electricity a million times better than copper, despite being as thin as human hair.

Bryan Dobson, AGM chairman, said: “Organic coatings loaded with hazardous or environmentally harmful metals, such as zinc, are commonly used to protect structures, so it is desirable to find improved and sustainable alternatives.

“Graphene has been identified as an alternative, anti-corrosive additive and the collaboration aims to develop the use of graphene in (such) coatings.”

Speaking last summer, Jon Mabbitt, chief executive, confirmed to The Northern Echo that AGM was exploring avenues of opportunity in anti-corrosion work.

He said: “We have a lot of customer engagement and one of things we are doing is a trial with a paint maker.

“That company is looking at adding graphene in different formulations and one they have identified is on ships’ hulls, below the water line.

“Corrosion is an issue, so anything they can do to protect them is welcome.

“Graphene enhanced paint will also increase lubricity of the hull, which will have benefits for increasing fuel efficiency and increasing speed of passage through the water.”

Speaking ahead of today’s (Tuesday, January 26) annual general meeting, Mr Dobson also confirmed the company raised about £8.5m from a shares sale, which he said will help increase production.

In September last year, AGM revealed it was carrying out 24-hour production to meet higher international demand, with two weeks of continuous work getting more than 120 samples out to clients.

Mr Dobson said such levels of interest will allow the business to flourish.

He added: “The fundraising followed a year of good progress, which included collaborations with international partners.

“Our main focus remains on driving forward opportunities to win orders and we are confident the group remains well positioned to become a leading graphene provider.”

AGM has also collaborated with Puraglobe to format versions of graphene to ease friction in motor and hydraulic oils, and spoken to a European polymers company about using graphene to improve thermal and electrical conductivity.

Graphene, a form of carbon and a single layer of graphite, which is arranged in a honeycomb lattice, was first isolated by scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at Manchester University in 2004.

AGM was founded by Professor Karl Coleman in 2010, with its operations and processes based on technology he initially developed at Durham University.