Nitrogen innovation fuels hope for Wirac Automation Ltd

Wirac Automation Ltd has created a liquid nitrogen generator that removes the need for costly and inconvenient deliveries

Spending chiefs have urged the creation of a new £200m fund to help SMEs
Wirac Automation Ltd, sells products branded as Noblegen

A Gateshead company that designs and manufactures gas systems is set to at least double turnover within the next few years after creating a world first.

Wirac Automation Ltd, which sells products branded as Noblegen, spent several years developing its new liquid nitrogen system, the first to be incorporated inside an easy-to-use enclosure.

The technology has huge implications for industrial, medical and laboratory applications, removing the need for liquid nitrogen tanker deliveries, which, as well as being inconvenient, drive up costs and create potential problems with evaporation and contamination.

Interest in the generators, which convert gas to liquid via a cooling mechanism, has grown since Homerton University Hospital bought one for its fertility centre, where liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and store sperm, eggs and embryos.

An order has also come from the Midland Fertility clinic in Birmingham and interest has been expressed by both the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead and Newcastle’s International Centre for Life, which would use the machine in its IVF clinic.

The business is planning to roll the technology out around the UK, but is also enjoying considerable interest from overseas, in places such as Slovakia, Mongolia, Uruguay and Germany.

Another advantage of the generators, which pay for themselves in two years, is the ease they afford those working in remote or hard-to-reach areas.

Bill Johnston, a researcher and designer at Wirac, said they provided a “massive advantage in terms of convenience, cost and cleanliness”, adding that they could help the company double, or even triple, its £1.5m turnover.

Established in 1991, Wirac, which employs 10 people originally produced electrical control panels and installations. When director Duncan Bradley joined around seven years ago, however, he came up with the idea for a new business strand.

The systems work by extracting nitrogen from the atmosphere and filtering it through a molecular sieve. The generator, which is available in 10, 20, 40 and 60 litre versions lowers the temperature of the gas to -196 degrees, converting it to a liquid.

Bradley said: “Having been involved in nitrogen gas systems for 25 years, the liquid nitrogen generator is an exciting prospect and adds a completely different product to our range of capabilities.

“Being the only UK nitrogen gas generator company to manufacture such a generator with different applications enables the company to cover both gas and liquid gas users. With so much interest coming from the initial installation at the NHS hospital in London and the forthcoming ESHRE exhibition in Munich next month where the LN10 will be on display, we are extremely excited about the future of this product and company.”

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