The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is backing research into self-cleaning antimicrobial sanitary coatings with a grant of $100,000 to American Environmental Systems of Ellicott City, Maryland. Henry K. Malak, Ph.D. is the lead researcher.
What sanitary coatings? Well, according to Water.org, “Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year.” Most latrines or temporary toilets are constructed of material that exacerbate the problem because they promote the growth of biologically active films that are laden with urine, feces, dirt and hazardous microbes. Cleaning them effectively means resorting to toxic chemicals with harsh environmental and unhealthy effects on workers while using precious water to finish the job.
Environmental Systems’ cutting edge research in anti-microbial surfaces research draws on new developments in nanotechnology to develop hydrophobic silicone materials that can be applied to surfaces of sanitary units and facilities from operating rooms to toilets.
Because the nanoparticles have been “plasmon-excited” before being added to the coatings, the nanoparticles actually kill microbes with electrical charges. Porous surfaces that can absorb dirt are filled in. They are so smooth that water droplets roll right off. These surfaces do not have to be cleaned as often, reducing costs. Water used in cleaning is minimized. The materials’ length of service is extended and costs are reduced. The coatings themselves are inexpensive, less than $0.01 per square foot. They last for at least a year and can be readily reapplied. Phase II product testing will move to the third world, Nairobi, Kenya; Mbazwana, South Africa; and Kerala, India.