Ní Dhulchaointigh with Sugru

An Irish art student living in London has invented what many believe to be the most useful household item since Sellotape or Blu-Tack.

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh (30), from Kilkenny, was studying product design at the Royal College of Art in London when she realised she wanted to make something that could help people fix, customise, adapt and 'hack' everyday items. "The idea grew before the material existed," she told the Sunday Tribune.

Five years later, the material exists. It's called Sugru (as in the Irish for 'play'), or more scientifically Formerol, a new type of silicone invented after Ní Dhulchaointigh worked tirelessly with retired scientists and a silicone expert. She prototyped her design at the RCA graduate exhibition.

Sugru is a malleable material that has the benefit of being easy to use, adaptable, but also very durable.

It can be used to customise and fix pretty much anything, from building handlebars for a bike, to patching a leaky welly, putting grips on electric plugs, replacing missing buttons in mobile phones to covering sharp corners.

Using a couple of small business grants, Sugru was able to go into production last year.?Such was its popularity, the planned 1,000 packs sold out in six hours before the company had even launched properly, thanks to a slot on the Daily Telegraph's video series on gadgets. "It went a bit crazy," Ní Dhulchaointigh said. "That was a heart attack moment, because it was the day before we launched. So we had to shut down the website. Those 1,000 orders went out to 24 countries."

Sugru's initial success has allowed Ní Dhulchaointigh to scale up production. "It's going to be this spring before we can properly supply," she said. "We're scaling by 20 times plus. It's quite mental to think we'll have a full factory."

Ní Dhulchaointigh believes the material's success lies in its simplicity and originality. "I think it's a really useful thing. It's not a competitor because it's totally different from everything in the market. It's not just for fixing a problem, it's also about improving things, so it's a new mindset about thinking of things."

Sugru multipacks cost €7.62 from sugru.com. They are currently sold out, but will be going into production shortly.