A Manchester firm is set to double in size after developing innovative new chemicals that will help make household cleaning products more sustainable.

Libra Speciality Chemicals, headquartered in Irlam and part of the Sheffield-based GRI Group, specialises in manufacturing and blending the active ingredients used in some of the world’s biggest personal care and household cleaning brands.

Company scientists have innovated new low-salt formulations of commonly-used chemicals called betaines, which perform better as formulators, while also requiring a third less energy to manufacture.

Well-known brands are already working to reformulate their products to incorporate the new ingredients, which contain just a tenth of the salt content commonly found in betaines, and could be on the shelves within 12 months.

Libra Speciality Chemicals has invested £3.5 million in a new plant to manufacture the low-salt betaines, in a move that also increases total betaine capacity by around two thirds.

The investment has been supported by a £2million loan through the Lloyds Bank Clean Growth Finance Initiative, which provides discounted lending to help businesses invest in reducing their environmental impact.

The Artificial Intelligence-powered plant can produce more than a thousand tonnes of betaines a week and can be operated by a single worker.

Graham Royle said: “This is a transformational investment that will help create a new generation of environmentally-friendly, renewable plant-based cleaning products that are sulphate-free, energy efficient and create zero waste.

“We are committed to ‘Green Chemistry’, seeking ever-better environmental and sustainable solutions for everyday products.

“I’m very optimistic about the future. We’re innovating and winning new business in new markets around the world.”