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16 July, 2019 - 08:36 By Tony Quested

Maiden product close as Paragraf uses new $16m to scale headcount

Cambridge UK-based graphene technology game-changer Paragraf has raised $16 million in a fresh funding round led by Parkwalk Advisors.

The Cambridge University spin-out plans to use the cash to increase its talent pool.

Paragraf has devised a manufacturing process to produce commercial quantities of graphene, a two-dimensional carbon structure with physical and energy-conductive attributes suited to computing, energy storage and water filtration. Cambridge is a global front runner in the development of applications for graphene technology.

Paragraf is finessing products made from graphene which include a magnetic field sensor due to launch later this year.

Paragraf’s founding research was led by co-founder and chairman Professor Colin Humphreys, a professor in the Centre for Gallium Nitride in University of Cambridge’s materials science department. 
As Business Weekly reported in March, Paragraf has already begun to produce graphene at a commercial scale.

It has started producing graphene – a sheet of carbon just one atomic layer thick – at up to eight inches in diameter, large enough for commercial electronic devices.

Paragraf is producing graphene ‘wafers’ and graphene-based electronic devices which could be used in transistors where graphene-based chips could deliver speeds more than 10 times faster than silicon chips – and in chemical and electrical sensors, where graphene could increase sensitivity by a factor of more than 30. The company’s first device will be available in the next few months.

Graphene’s remarkable properties – stronger than steel, more conductive than copper, highly flexible and transparent – make it ideal for a range of applications. However, its widespread commercial application in electronic devices has been held back by the difficulties associated with producing it at high quality and at high volume.

The conventional way of making large-area graphene involves using copper as a catalyst which contaminates the graphene, making it unsuitable for electronic applications.

Professor Humphreys, along with his former postdoctoral researchers Dr Simon Thomas and Dr Ivor Guiney, developed a new way to make large-area graphene in 2015. Using their method, the researchers were able to form high-quality graphene wafers up to eight inches in diameter, beating not only other university research groups worldwide, but also companies like IBM, Intel and Samsung. The three researchers spun out Paragraf in early 2018.

Professor Humphreys’ personal equity stake is now said to be valued at $1.3m. As a business, Paragraf has now raised around $20m.

Cambridge Enterprise, the university’s commercialisation arm, led a $4m round for Paragraf which closed in May 2018 – a raise which also featured Parkwalk Advisors, Hermann Hauser’s Amadeus Capital Partners, IQ Capital Partners and assorted angel investors.

Shareholders in the business include Sir Michael Marshall and the Marshall family, who own Cambridge-based industry and aviation powerhouse the Marshall Group.

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