This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will address a growing market demand for advanced antimicrobial plastic surfaces by employing a newly-developed ionic copper-based antimicrobial additive technology. The potential of this project lies in the ubiquity of plastics in consumer products. It is desirable that plastic products remain free of bacteria and fungi in a wide variety of environments. Tremendous savings in terms of reduced health care expenses, for both individuals and governments, are possible if related illnesses can be avoided. The market demand for antimicrobial plastics has been continuously increasing in recent years and is projected to account for about 20% of the global plastics market in the near term. The success of this project will accelerate the growth of this market by providing an efficient, long-lasting, environmentally-friendly, and cost-effective new material technology which can be seamlessly integrated into current production processes. Future expansion of this technology into the paint, textile, paper, and wood product markets is also envisioned.
In this Phase I effort, new antibacterial/antifungal plastic masterbatch pellets will be developed by implanting copper-vermiculite in the pellets to form self-decontaminating surfaces on plastics. The ionic copper will be slowly released to the product surface from the host mineral particles to restrict the reproduction of microbes on the surface of the plastic. Through this project, the dosages, process, performance and the long term environmental impacts of the resulting products will be evaluated and optimized. The technical and economic feasibilities of these masterbatch pellets will also be determined. The success of this project will provide a new material and process for realizing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, long-lasting antimicrobial plastics.
The goal of this SBIR Phase I project is to address a growing market demand for advanced antimicrobial plastic surfaces by employing a newly-developed ionic copper-based antimicrobial mineral additive technology. Specifically, this project was to develop new antibacterial/antifungal plastic masterbatch pellets by implanting copper-based mineral additive in the pellets to form self-decontaminating surfaces on plastics. The ionic copper can be slowly released to the product surface from the host mineral particles to restrict the reproduction of microbes on the surface of the plastic. Significant progresses in both technology research and market development were made during the implement of this SBIR Phase I project by QTEK, collaborating with Michigan Technological University. The laboratory investigation confirmed the companyâ€™s ability to provide quality antimicrobial additive material that meets the requirements for plastic processes. Through this project, the dosages, process, performance and the long term environmental impacts of the resulting products were evaluated and optimized. The antimicrobial evaluation of the plastics in this study included both antibacterial testing and antifungal testing against the indicator strains of bacteria and fungi, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Staphylococcus aureus, and Aspergillus niger (Test methods: ISO 22196 and ASTM G21). It was found that 3-5% addition rate of the mineral additive in HDPE plastics is sufficient to impart the plastic surface with adequate antibacterial/antifungal activity. Microscopy investigation displayed that the mineral particles are well compatible to the plastic matrix. Mechanical test showed that the addition of the mineral additive in the selected plastics does not have any significant impact on the mechanical property of plastics. Leaching process was designed and performed which indicated that copper was slowly released from the plastic matrix to inhibit microorganisms on the plastic surface with long term durability. TCLP testing (EPA Method 1311) assured that the plastic pellets added with the mineral additive are not a toxic material to the environment. The cost of the mineral additive is in an acceptable range for customers. This project clearly verified the technology concept and feasibility of using copper-based mineral as an antimicrobial additive in plastics, and provided a new material and process for cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, long-lasting antimicrobial plastics. It also convinced QTEK and many potential customers to further invest in the technology. Further expansion of this technology into paint, wood composite, textile, paper markets is also envisioned.