Research into a coating which could destroy bacteria and viruses on surfaces - such as handles and rails - has received the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) gold status rating for the second year in a row.
The University of Canterbury's Advanced Energy and Material Lab is undertaking the research which is focusing on creating self-cleaning surface coatings that destroy bacteria simply by being exposed to light.
The coating, being developed in the MBIE-funded project, is a non-toxic photocatalyst ceramic, which produces continuous oxygen radicals at the surface - burning up the microbes left there by hands, but also by contact with clothing and airborne pathogens.
One of the project's leads, Professor Susan Krumdieck, of UC's Mechanical Engineering department, says the need for this technology is more urgent now than ever.
"Hospital-acquired infections affect both vulnerable and relatively healthy people, largely through incidental transmission rather than through any breakdown of hygiene protocols," Prof Krumdieck said.
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Researchers say the technology to make the coating has been developed at the university over the past 10 years and could be ready for manufacturers to use in their antimicrobial products by 2020 or sooner.