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HKUST Develops New Smart Anti-Microbial Coating

Image Credits: HKUST, Press Release

Researchers at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have developed a new multi-level anti-microbial polymer coating effective in killing a wide range of bacteria, hard-to-kill spores, as well as inactivating 99.9% of highly-infectious viruses – including the Omicron variant which has caused a tsunami of Covid-19 cases around the globe in recent months.

Having been tested in field trials and laboratories both at HKUST and independently in France and the UK for its efficacy and durability, this new technology, called MAP-∞, has proven to last at least five years on a variety of materials and surfaces, based on accelerated ageing tests conducted in compliance with relevant standards for disinfection, disinfectant, medical devices and cards published by the Mainland Chinese and Australian authorities, American Society for Testing and Materials and the International Organization for Standardization. Materials coated with MAP-∞ is similarly effective against SARS-CoV-2 and its Omicron strain.

Invented by a team led by Prof. YEUNG King-Lun, Professor at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the Division of Environment and Sustainability at HKUST, MAP-∞ is an upgraded version of MAP-1, one of the first lasting anti-microbial coatings co-developed and commercialized with a Hong Kong-based product manufacturing company against the coronavirus at the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.

The original coating, initially effective for up to three months and eventually six months after each application, was quickly adopted by a wide range of facilities including hospitals, clinics, care homes, schools, public transport, shopping malls, restaurants, and public venue in Hong Kong and abroad. It was also applied to the sportswear and gear of the Hong Kong Olympic athletes during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In a media briefing session on the coating that, all along, the Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology stated that cooperation among the government, industry, academia and research institutes has been promoted. The new smart anti-microbial coating developed by the HKUST best illustrates the synergy created by the collaboration of universities and private sectors and helps accelerate the commercialization of R&D achievements.

The Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology thanked HKUST and the company for their support and contributions to the I&T development in Hong Kong. He also encouraged everyone to work together and inject more new impetus into the Hong Kong I&T industry.

The team developed a new formula for this long-lasting coating, as we realized that whether we like it or not, the world would have to find a more sustainable way to deal with the SARS-Cov-2 virus.  Just like the disinfection of tap water, the anti-microbial function will certainly become a ubiquitous feature of future consumer products. The invention of MAP-∞ is meant to help meet this new demand and to better protect the general public.

The coating works by contact-killing and prevents surface contamination with its anti-adhesion and self-cleaning properties. Similar to MAP-1, the new version is also proven non-toxic to the animals and the environment according to the Technical Standard for Disinfection issued by the National Health Commission in Mainland China. It is available as a high gloss permanent surface finish, high optical-transparent finish, and ultra-durable protective coating for a wide range of applications.

The HK-based product manufacturer, which has established a joint laboratory with the HKUST on environmental health technologies in 2018, is now in discussion with different industrial partners on applying MAP-∞ on public buses, elevators, elderly care homes, optical lenses, credit cards and passenger aircraft. The coating can also be applied to frequently-touched objects such as doorknobs, smartphone screens, remote controllers, handbags, or building materials such as artificial marble and wallpaper, without changing their texture and appearance.

Since the establishment of the joint lab, the Innovation and Technology Commission has offered staunch support to the lab’s research and application, awarding funding totalling close to HK$4 million.

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