Wales

Baglan team develop 'game changing' corrosion protector

Three scientists looking at some screens Image copyright Hexigone
Image caption Adrian Walters, Prof Geraint Williams and Patrick Dodds researched corrosion inhibitors at Swansea University

A "game changing" product to help tackle the decay of buildings around the world has been developed by a team from Neath Port Talbot.

Developers Hexigone say metal corrosion causes damage to buildings and infrastructure and costs the world economy £1.9tn ($2.5tn) each year.

The product Intell-ion will replace the chemical hexavalent chromate, which was banned by the EU over health concerns.

Hexigone said it could transform the local and world economies.

Corrosion affects buildings and infrastructure across the world every year and can lead to serious structural damage if it is not repaired.

It cannot be stopped but the previous corrosion inhibitor, hexavalent chromate, which was made famous in the film Erin Brokovich, has been banned in EU countries over health and safety issues.

The group, which was started at Swansea University, said its Intelli-ion technology can be used as a coating on metal which releases the inhibitor, stopping corrosion "on demand".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The film Erin Brokovich highlighted the danger of hexavalent chromate, which has been linked to cancer

Founder and CEO Patrick Dodds said the find could transform both the local and world economies, with plans to expand to 40 staff in Neath Port Talbot.

"In 12 months we've gone from zero to seven staff in Neath Port Talbot. This is ranging from technical to business development to marketing. We're looking to grow again over the next year," he said.

"We've gone from one research partner to 20 global research partners. We have got them in regions where they don't have to stop using hexavalent chromate.

"We've seen massively high performance in it. It took about two months for people to believe what we had.

"The potential market we're looking at is substantial - we're talking hundreds of millions to billions."

Image copyright Hexigone
Image caption The coating is applied to metal surfaces and slows the effects of corrosion

Investment from the Development Bank of Wales and a loan from Innovate UK, totalling about £1m, has allowed the development of the business.

"In my 40 years in the industry we have been searching for a comparable anti-corrosion pigment that delivers the same results as lead and chromate complexes," added Phil Buck, industry expert and investor.

"None of the new developments have given that.

"Now at last we have a corrosion inhibitor that provides the level of performance that our clients need to protect their assets - cars, buildings, planes and ships - and the people who use them, for longer."

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