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Tuesday 15 October 2019

Cork man's firm aims to strike gold with hi-tech metal

Ivor Guiney's Paragraf to use fundraising to produce ingredient for tech sector, reports John Reynolds

Guiney co-founded Paragraf, which makes graphene, as a spinout from Cambridge University, along with fellow scientists Dr Simon Thomas and Prof Colin Humphreys. Stock Image
Guiney co-founded Paragraf, which makes graphene, as a spinout from Cambridge University, along with fellow scientists Dr Simon Thomas and Prof Colin Humphreys. Stock Image

John Reynolds

Cork scientist Dr Ivor Guiney's Paragraf firm has been awarded a £500,000 grant in the UK to help fund R&D into replacing indium tin oxide, an expensive rare metal used in the manufacture of solar panels, smartphones and TVs.

Guiney co-founded Paragraf, which makes graphene, as a spinout from Cambridge University, along with fellow scientists Dr Simon Thomas and Prof Colin Humphreys.

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Graphene is a super-strong, lightweight material which could be used in the manufacture of longer-lasting smartphone batteries; lighter, stronger cars and planes; and bendable touchscreens. It is about as valuable as gold.

The Cambridge-based firm has also raised £12.8m (€14.4m) in a series A round to fund plans to commercialise graphene production, begin selling electronic products made from it, and hire additional staff.

Following a €3.3m seed funding round last year, the series A round came from a number of investors, including Hermann Hauser's Amadeus Capital Partners, and deep-tech investment fund IQ Capital Partners.

In the past year, Guiney said that Paragraf has grown from eight staff to 25.

Over the next 12 months, he expects to add up to 15 more recruits, including engineers, scientists, a business development specialist and lab technicians.

The firm has also established an R&D facility near the university that Guiney and his team hope will become a global centre of excellence for two-dimensional, materials-based device R&D.

"Indium tin oxide is highly electrically conductive and transparent, but it's very rare, environmentally unsustainable and expensive," said Guiney.

The metal costs five times the price of silver, and demand for it is rising, according to industry analysts. The firm's grant will see it work with Queen Mary University in London, where some of the research into replacing the metal will take place.

"Our first product will be an ultra-sensitive magnetic sensor, which is capable of operating at very high temperature, field and power ranges. We can see a route toward having high volumes of it and other electronics made using our graphene," said Guiney.

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