Good looker

A UK company hopes the fast-emerging nanoscience sector will prompt big demand for its pioneering analysis technology.

Polaron claimed its Oxford University-developed 3D Atom Probe (3DAP) is well placed to meet the growing demand for nano-scale analysis of materials.

The diversified technology group has already sold several 3DAP units to customers in Asia, and said it aims to become a ‘significant player’ in the nanotechnology sector.

The 3DAP maps the chemical identity and 3D position of individual atoms. According to Polaron, it is particularly adept at analysing materials containing atoms with very similar mass-to-charge ratios such as complex alloys and alloy steels.

Polaron has now installed an atom probe at its Milton Keynes facility, allowing potential customers to run test samples.

The company claimed a high level of interest in the probe, especially from China and Japan, thanks to increased awareness of the technology’s potential.

‘There is encouraging progress in respect of the recognition and adoption of atom probe microscopy as a tool for characterising atomic structure,’ said Polaron chief executive Joe Stelzer, citing an increase in the number of speeches and papers on the topic submitted to academic conferences.

Stelzer said the company also derived big benefits from the expertise of its chairman, Prof George Smith, co-developer of the 3DAP and recent recipient of the Acta Materialia gold medal for his contribution to materials science.

Polaron, which has just submitted its first financial results after floating earlier this year, said its other engineering and technology interests were also in good shape.

Group pre-tax profits grew 20 per cent to £760,000 on turnover 12 per cent higher at £13.4m.

While highlighting nanotechnology as a major opportunity for the future, the company said most of its current growth is coming from its controls division, which boosted sales by almost a third to £5.5m last year. Polaron moved to strengthen this division with the recent £1.7m purchase of lighting controlproducts manufacturer iLight.

Polaron’s components division increased sales slightly, despite a delay to the next phase of refurbishment work on the London Underground – one of its key customers.

The company has also delivered the first sensors to the Stingraytorpedo programme after passing MoD inspection. Polaron expects the contract to be worth £1m over the next five years.

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