PIONEERING firm Kromek expects to nearly double its workforce to more than 100 within months as it prepares to sell radiation detectors to Japan.
The Sedgefield firm’s latest line is targeted at Japanese people concerned about radiation levels following the wreck of the Fukushima nuclear power station in last year’s earthquake.
The RadAngel allows users to distinguish hazardous man made radiation from natural background radiation and will be followed this year by a device to measure the levels of radioactivity in food and soil.
The company’s chief executive said it follows the use of the firm’s technology by government agencies checking through the rubble of the power station after the earthquake.
Chief executive Arnab Basu said: “It is the first time we have sold directly to consumers. It helps to give people confidence in the safety of radiation levels in the level of dust in their homes for example and so tell them where to clean.
“And it can allow them to share the data with communities or the wider public online and is part of our work to educate people about radiation.”
Radiation measuring is just one of the strands of business from the Durham University spin-out company which has raised £24m in investment since it was launched in 2003.
“We continue to raise money for expansion and the development of new intellectual property. We spend a lot of money on research and development and play an important part in the economy of the North East,” said Basu.
The company has a wide range of related products and has won multi-million pound deals with the US government to check the potential danger from nuclear waste as well for machines that help detect cancer.
But it is best known for its development of an x-ray scanner which is used by airports to find explosives in luggage and which gives such a detailed image of the make-up of liquids it can tell the difference between gin and water.
The scanner, which has been trialled at Durham Tees Valley Airport, has been sold to scores of airports around the world. But Basu says its potential will not be realised until the EU says it meets all its standards.
“We already sell the scanners around the world but we want to be in Europe. We expect to see a massive demand for the product in Europe as we are the market leaders.”
He said the sales meant he expected to be able to grow Kromek’s 60-strong staff in County Durham and in California to at least 100 within the next five months.
“We are in a very strong position and have seen our business grow four times last year on the previous year. We will continue to grow at a very good rate in the future,” he said.
He says that the technology will be in demand because it will not only help to prevent terrorists blowing up aeroplanes but bring an end to passengers facing delays and having to ditch their drinks and shampoo before going through airport security gates.