Move over Mr. Clean—an exciting new powder coating formula for finishing surfaces is marking a new era in germ resistance. An antimicrobial additive is being used in powder coated finishes on germ-gathering surfaces in hospitals and doctors’ offices, as well as such places as home kitchens, bathrooms and children’s rooms. The addition of antimicrobial chemicals to the powder coating, a method for finishing products, will be key to the ongoing battle against the spread of germs.
The key ingredient in the antimicrobial powder coating formula is silver, a metal long recognized for its protective benefits. Ancient Egyptians used silver particles to keep fungus, mold and other microorganisms away from food supplies. The Phoenicians used silver vessels to keep water from being spoiled by germs. Because silver is inorganic, unlike widely used antibiotics, germs can’t build up immunity to the silver’s killing power through over-exposure. With the antimicrobial powder formulation, the protective life of the powder coated finish is extended even longer because of the addition of an inorganic, ceramic element, which controls the slow release of silver ions over a long period of time.
“While it is not a good idea to coat our entire world with antimicrobial substances,” said Marjorie Kelly Cowan, Ph.D., professor of microbiology at Miami University in Middletown, Ohio, “we are looking for any help we can get in eliminating microbes from the hospital environment and food preparation and serving areas.”
Antimicrobial powder coatings are currently being used in the new City of Hope’s Helford Clinical Research Hospital in Duarte, California, on ductwork, door handles and hardware and push plates. Other hospitals and clinics are looking into using antimicrobial powder coated materials in emergency rooms, surgery areas and patients rooms, on cabinets, counters and other surfaces.
While antimicrobial powder coating seems a natural fit for places like hospitals and doctors’ offices, there are also markets for this germ-resistant finish beyond the healthcare industry. Bosch and Siemens in Munich, Germany, is applying antimicrobial powder coating to the interior of refrigerators. Similarly, Honeywell Corporation is using powder coating to coat portable, air-blown humidifiers where wicks soak up water, which can provide a breeding ground for germs.
In the Los Angeles area, AK Coatings, a subsidiary of AK Steel, based in Middletown, Ohio, is setting up a special concept home to field test antimicrobial powder coatings in high-touch areas on a wide variety of surfaces such as door knobs, handles and push panels, as well as on metal panels and railings inside the home’s elevator.
According to Greg Bocchi, Executive Director of The Powder Coating Institute, “Powder coating manufacturers are continually experimenting with new formulations to enhance the benefits of powder coating and to expand its usage to a variety of materials. We are excited about the development of the antimicrobial powder coating, a breakthrough that combines powder coating’s protective qualities with scientific and medical applications.”