CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Texas A&M University System (TAMU) said biological warfare technology born at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) to protect soldiers from anthrax has been readapted and deployed across campus to protect door handles from viruses and bacteria.
Doors across WTAMU will be getting Copper Clean stickers over handles and push plates.
TAMU said the stickers are basically a highly engineered copper-alloy foil with an adhesive backing. It is the newest product developed by Engineering Dean Emily Hunt and a group of graduate engineering students working to commercialize patents they have obtained for WTAMU and the TAMU System.
Along with standard infection control practices, TAMU said these stickers will help alleviate the microbial burden on these high-touch surfaces across campus.
“The stickers are made with a copper-alloy that has been proven to kill 99.9 of harmful pathogens, like MSRA, Staph. auerus and E. coli within two hours,” Hunt said. Soon, they will be tested against other pathogens, including COVID-19.
“Sometimes a complex problem requires a common sense solution,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System. “Dr. Hunt and her team deserve a lot of credit for doing their part to address the biggest problem facing the world today.”
TAMU said copper is one of the oldest known antimicrobials, and that applying it to high-touch surfaces was a challenge Hunt and her materials science engineering students first took on in 2016.
“We recognized way back then that there are many surfaces in the world that our hands share with others,” Hunt said. “These areas, which we call ‘high-touch,’ are very susceptible to picking up, harboring and transferring microorganisms among people.”
“When a bacteria, or a virus, or fungi come into contact with a copper particle, it produces ions that break down the DNA of the actual microorganism. Once that microorganism experiences that break down, it can’t reproduce and it’s effectively mitigated.” Hunt said.
Hunt is a Canyon native. She started research into antimicrobial materials in 2009 when she was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation to pursue her ideas to protect soldiers and civilians from biological weapons of mass destruction.
The Department of Defense adopted Hunt’s ideas for use in military gas masks. Then she and her team worked to convert the military technology into commercial and consumer applications.
They formed Buffalo Technology Group, which has successfully patented and sold several products already, including MIC-Guard, a ceramic-metallic powder used in various coatings, linings, and molded products in several industrial applications to inhibit iron-eating microorganisms and biofouling.
Hunt said Copper Clean stickers are made at an EPA-approved, American manufacturer. The first batch is set to arrive this week. WTAMU will be the first customer, but Hunt said Buffalo Technology Group is already talking to school districts across the state who are interested.
“At a time when the whole world is more cognizant than they have ever been about the prevalence and danger of harmful microorganisms, my hope for these patches is that they are implemented in areas were large quantities of healthy, sick and immunocompromised individuals share high-touch surfaces,” Hunt said.
For more on Copper Clean, click here.
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