North East diamond innovators Dyman Advanced Materials cut plans to create 100 jobs
A County Durham firm has developed a novel way of producing man-made diamonds that it says could create up to 100 jobs once at scale.
NETPark-based Dyman Advanced Materials – which currently employs seven – hopes to cut a slice of the $14bn industrial synthetic diamonds market which supplies stones for a range of sectors. The firm is led by founder Dr Gary Gibson who has previously worked for Sedgefield neighbours Kromek and had the idea for diamond production 25 years ago, as an undergraduate student.
From its Sedgefield base, Dyman has just completed its research and development and proof of concept phases for its technology – which has patents pending across the world. Having recently secured more than £800,000 investment , the firm is now moving out of the lab and into manufacturing, with hopes to launch its first products to market in the first quarter of 2023.
A common way to make synthetic diamonds is called “high pressure high temperature” which involves temperatures of 1,600C and enormous pressure – the equivalent of balancing a car on the head of a pin. The process typically involves a machine three metres wide, three metres tall and three metres deep, weighing tonnes.
Dr Gibson explained: “We’ve miniaturised the process, using some clever space technology, down to the size of a football. One of the things that allows us to do this is using sophisticated carbon fibre graphite of the type that’s used on the nose of space shuttles.
“Most people will know that when the shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it starts to glow red because it gets so hot. The graphite is a really good thermal barrier and that helps the equipment as it goes up to these insanely hot temperatures.”
Industrial diamonds – which are dull or coloured, unlike their attractive gemstones counterparts – are used in a variety of different scenarios, including offshore oil and gas drilling, cutting composite material components for the automotive industry and in medical applications such as ultra-sharp scalpels that never become blunt. There is also a new field of diamond electronics which uses the stone’s heat sink qualities to protect high performing devices.
So far Dyman has focussed on producing these industrial diamonds, as the requirements are more straightforward. Ultimately, Mr Gibson and his team would like to expand into synthetic gemstones, which is another expanding market as environmentally-savvy consumers are wary of the tonnes of rock required to be mined in search of the stones.
Leonardo DiCaprio has recently invested in a company called Diamond Foundry Inc and jewellery brand Pandora is now using “lab-created diamonds”, made using renewable energy. Industrial diamonds can vary in size from a 10th of a carat to two carats but retain a high value – Dr Gibson says 1kg is worth about £2m.
Dr Gibson added: “Along with the miniaturisation, our technology also brings efficiency. To make a good quality synthetic stone you need to keep these things at temperature for about two weeks. At the moment other producers have these little heaters inside the machines but they struggle a little bit because they can’t quite get the temperature they need to make good diamonds.”
Dyman’s football-sized “pressure cells” are placed inside a furnace which, once at the required temperature, is much more efficient – using between 10-20 times less energy. It also allows the firm to batch process and pass significant cost savings on to customers.
At the moment, the majority of the world’s synthetic diamonds are produced in China and demand significantly outstrips supply. Dyman has found plenty of encouragement for its plans – which could see it generate between £50m-£100m revenue – as bringing production to the UK is seen as strategically important.
Dr Gibson added: “One of the biggest challenges in the UK is the high cost of energy. We can compete because our technology is so efficient we can absorb those costs and still be competitive around the world.”
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