Element Six looks set to create innovation centre near Oxford

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Element Six has announced it is creating a £20m innovation centre near Oxford to create and develop new products.

The international synthetic diamond company, which makes products for oil and gas drilling as well as machining and electronics, is building the new facility in an effort to consolidate its research and development (R&D) activities into one integrated centre.

Steve Coe, Element Six’s group innovation director, told The Engineer: ‘The primary reason for doing it is because our research centres are scattered around the world at the moment.

‘The idea is to take the majority of that work and consolidate it into one centre so we get much better communication and co-ordination of our R&D activity.’

Element Six will employ 55–60 materials scientists at the centre to work alongside 40–45 staff that will be brought in from existing sites.

The engineers, scientists and technicians will look at new applications for synthetic diamond in addition to new manufacturing techniques.

‘There are many other new applications [for synthetic diamond] that are opening up,’ said Coe. ‘For example, diamond has a very high thermal conductivity — up to five times that of copper. So it can be used in electronic devices to spread heat and keep a chip cool.’

Coe explained that Element Six will also start exploring how diamond can be used as a sensing material in extreme conditions.

‘You can dope diamond with boron to make it electrically conductive. Because it’s so chemically resistant, it has a very wide electrochemical potential range, which means you can actually use the surface of the diamond as an electrochemical sensor,’ he said.

Coe suggested that diamond sensors could potentially be used down boreholes in oil and gas drilling, where conventional silicon sensors would not be able to survive.

Construction work on the facility began this week and is set to finish in spring 2013.