Scientists develop material that makes any surface antibacterial/antiviral

© iStock/Alena Butusava

In a groundbreaking infection control innovation, a team of Korean scientists have created a novel material that provides antibacterial/antiviral properties to any object it is applied to.

The research team, comprised of experts from the Department of Nano-Bio Convergence of the Korea Institute of Materials Science (KIMS) led by Dr Chang Su Kim, pioneered the revolutionary material. Their cutting-edge creation adds antibacterial/antiviral properties without modifying the physical properties of a range of commonly used products. The advancement may aid in combatting a range of viral infections such as COVID-19 and influenza.

The team’s research was funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT and supported by the Fundamental Research Program of KIMS.

Limitations of current antibacterial/antiviral technologies

Traditionally, high contact surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, and touch screens are coated in antibacterial films and antibacterial coating products to help mitigate infection transmission. However, these properties have a short efficacy due to their low transparency and the fact that they can be easily damaged, making it challenging to maintain their long-term antibacterial durability. Furthermore, it can be time-consuming, as it requires an additional process of applying or producing a film to an existing product.

Infection control innovation

The KIMS research team designed an antibacterial/antiviral additive that produces high metal ions to eliminate these drawbacks. The researchers demonstrated that adding just a tiny amount of the additive to a range of resins increased the antibacterial properties to 99.99%. Moreover, the antiviral properties were increased ten-fold in just two hours without modifying the optical, thermal, or mechanical properties of the existing products.

Because the novel material is employed as an additive, it is possible to perform an ultraviolet (UV) and heat curing process without additional processing on existing products. Additionally, the antibacterial/antiviral additive is made from non-toxic substances that do not contain organic antibacterial agents and nano compounds.

Dr Chang Su Kim, the team’s lead researcher, said, “This technology can be widely applied to display films, functional textiles, home appliances/furniture films, window films, interior and exterior materials for automobiles, kitchen/bathroom/sanitary products, and medical supplies. We are conducting mass-production tests together with some companies who would use the material. We will spare no effort to tackle new infectious diseases for the post-COVID-19 era when people’s interest in personal hygiene will greatly increase.”

Jung-hwan Lee, the President of KIMS, said: “KIMS will continue to discover excellent ideas that have commercial potential and make efforts to materialise and commercialise rapidly from the market point of view. We will do our best to support and encourage the researchers so that we can localise the functional antibacterial/antiviral materials and enter the overseas markets.”

The researchers are now working to commercialise the antibacterial/antiviral technology by promoting a research institute spin-off company.


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