Paragraf was founded in 2015 to develop a process for depositing single-atom thick, 2D materials, including graphene, directly onto silicon, silicon-carbide, sapphire, gallium-nitride and other semiconductor-compatible substrates. Based near Cambridge, U.K., Paragraf was spun-out from the Centre for Gallium Nitride group of Professor Sir Colin Humphreys in the Department of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge. The company has 40 employees.
In 2018, Paragraf closed a £2.9 million seed round led by Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialization arm of the University of Cambridge, with the participation of Parkwalk Advisors, Amadeus Capital Partners, IQ Capital Partners and angel investors. In 2019, Paragraf raised £16.2m in Series A funding led by led by Parkwalk and including Draper Esprit, IQ Capital, Amadeus, Cambridge Enterprise, and angel investors.
Paragraf has completed a successful seed phase, delivering a manufacturing facility, graphene layer production and first device prototypes significantly ahead of plan. The funding will see Paragraf’s first graphene-based products reach the market, transitioning the company into a commercial, revenue-generating entity. The company has raised £19.1m to date. Additional capital will be raised to enable the company to rapidly scale and bring many more graphene-based products to market.
According to Paragraf, until now, manufacturers have struggled to harness the benefits of graphene. Paragraf claims to be the first company to deliver IP-protected graphene technology using standard, mass production scale manufacturing approaches, enabling step-change performance enhancements to today’s electronic devices. Paragraf has overcome the problems of poor uniformity, reproducibility, limited size and material contamination that have stymied all current graphene manufacturing techniques. Paragraph argues that no other companies can produce commercial quality graphene at scale.
Paragraf graphene is directly compatible with existing electronic device processing and production lines, enabling readily scalable graphene electronic device production. Its modified deposition method removes the need for the transfer processes commonly applied in most large area graphene synthesis methods. It does not require catalytic formation of the graphene thus eliminating metallic contamination, which allows synthesis of large areas of the material (up to 8” diameter to date) directly onto semiconductor-compatible substrates such as silicon, silicon-carbide, sapphire and gallium-nitride.
Graphene’s high transparency (only one atomic layer thick), outstanding flexibility, mechanical strength and exceptional conductivity make it particularly suitable for use in electronic device surface applications, such as touchscreens, flexible mobile devices, surface contact for SSDs and ITO replacement. Graphene has high levels of electrical and thermal conductivity, electrochemical stability, a large surface area and potential for direct combination with other crystalline materials. These qualities make it invaluable for enhancing electrical extraction efficiency in green energy applications such as solar PV cells and rechargeable batteries. Paragraf’s graphene production technique enables formation of graphene directly onto semiconductor material surfaces and transparent crystalline substrates.
Serving the sensor, energy harvesting and semiconductor markets, Paragraf has developed its own Hall-Effect Sensors for measuring magnetic fields in demanding environments. Utilizing the inherently high sensitivity of 2D graphene material, the GHS Series achieves outstanding field resolution without signal conditioning, while introducing enhanced features such as a negligible planar Hall-Effect and robustness.
Existing Hall effect sensors all exhibit planar Hall effects where field components that are not perpendicular to the sensing plane produce false signals because the sensing layer is effectively 3D, with some amount of depth. These false signals, together with the non-linear response to the field strength, increase the measurement uncertainty and thus limit the application of Hall sensors.
The Hall effect sensor from Paragraf solves these problems because the active sensing component is made of atomically thin graphene, thus sensing magnetic fields along one direction. This enables the true perpendicular magnetic field value to be obtained, allowing for higher precision mapping of the local magnetic field.
Also, due to extremely low noise and high sensitivity, a resolution in the sub-100 nT region is possible, which is far beyond that achievable with a regular Hall sensor (usually in the 10’s-100s µT). Extremely high mobility of the charge carriers in the graphene enables faster sensing and a wide operational bandwidth. The sensor also has a highly linear voltage response.
Paragraf’s Hall effect sensor also features a wide temperature range from +80°C (353 K) down to cryogenic temperatures of 1.5 Kelvin, with future high temperature-variants under development. This enables the sensor to be used in superconducting environments, while actually becoming more sensitive. Graphene Hall-Effect sensors also have an incredibly low power dissipation – of the order of picowatts with nanoamperes drive current, which means they will not heat cryogenic environments and will save energy. The devices are resistant to thermal shock and ESD.
The company is targeting multiple markets that can leverage graphene, including renewable energy, energy storage, semiconductor technologies, medical technology, computing (touchscreens, flexible displays, SSDs, ITO replacement), scientific research, healthcare, avionics, automotive, satellite & space technologies, robotics.
Currently, Paragraph produce devices end-to-end; however, as the company scales it is building strong relationships and partnerships with device developers, manufacturers and foundries. Paragraf’s goal is to bring scalable graphene devices to the world as quickly as possible, which will likely be achieved through alliances.
Queen Mary University, London is collaborating with Paragraf and performing basic graphene research to study and develop a wide range of graphene devices. Paragraf “next-generation” graphene will also be assessed by the University as a potential ITO replacement for organic LEDs. Paragraf is working in partnership with Verditek, a supplier of lightweight, flexible solar panels. Depositing optically transparent, highly conductive graphene directly onto the solar cell surface facilitates current dispersal and eliminates shading. In principle, this will improve solar cell efficiency by 3%.
The standard, very high performance hall sensor, the Graphene Hall Effect Sensor (GHS) is available now. This is the first of several variants that will be launched over the next year targeting different application spaces. Paragraf is also developing graphene enhanced energy generation devices and targeting graphene enhanced and all-graphene solid-state devices, such as, for example, transistors.
Dr. Simon Thomas, Co-founder & CEO (previously Research Associate at University of Cambridge and Scientific Engineering Manager at AIXTRON)
Prof. Sir Colin Humphreys, Co-founder & Chief Science Officer (Professor of Materials Science at Queen Mary University of London, a Fellow of Selwyn College Cambridge and Emeritus Professor of Materials Science at Cambridge University)
Dr. Ivor Guiney, Co-founder
Tony Pearce, COO (previously VP, Business Systems and Quality and VP , Group Operations at IQE and Managing Director at AIXTRON)
John Tingay, CTO (previously led the development of capital equipment for the semiconductor and electronics industries for over two decades)
Helen Adams, Chief Commercial Officer (previously spent 11 years at ARM where, as VP, she ran the sales teams in Europe and Asia)
Hugh Wolley, CFO