Design by Kate Shen

University of Michigan researchers published a study in late August documenting the effectiveness of their newly developed durable disinfectant coating. The disinfectant kills 99.9% of microbes, including after durability tests, such as UV exposure and continuous abrasion. 

U-M alum Abhishek Dhyani, a member of the research team, said this new formula retains the advantages of typical disinfectants, but also adds the element of longevity to maximize effectiveness.

“Today, what we do is we use disinfectants, which are very good at killing bacteria and viruses, but they only last for a short period of time,” Dhyani said. “They essentially evaporate in minutes after performing their function which necessitates the reapplication of disinfection. … What we have developed is a coating that brings the best of both worlds — so it’s instant, it acts within minutes and it is also persistent and durable.”

Rackham student Taylor Repetto, another member of the research team, explained the team’s durability and effectiveness testing process. She said after selecting the microbes they sought to eliminate, the team tested how well different formulas could withstand continual exposure to these pathogens.

“We wanted to test these surfaces against a variety of different bacteria, so we chose E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and MRSA, and those are common bacteria responsible for infections,” Repetto said. “When COVID hit, we got super interested in testing the surface against COVID and found that it did indeed work very well, so that was very exciting. And we also tested the ability of the surface to withstand re-inoculation, so continually exposing the surface to bacteria, and (we found) it could continually provide that fast rate of disinfection over a short amount of time.”

Repetto added that in addition to testing reexposure to various pathogens, they also tested the effectiveness of the coating over time. The team found their formulation still killed 99.9% of these pathogens after six months of air exposure.

Engineering professor Anish Tuteja, principal investigator for the project, said the team also subjected the surface coating to a variety of harsh chemical and mechanical tests, including repeatedly cleaning and abrading the surface and exposing it to ultraviolet light.

Dhyani said the team is looking forward to implementing this technology on high-touch surfaces, from high-density public areas to individual possessions. 

“We envision this to be applied in surfaces that are prone to high contact with humans,” Dhyani said. “Think of doorknobs, airport kiosks, inside of ride-sharing vehicles. Of course, the hospital environment (and) daycares being an important one. Think of consumer devices, like keyboards we type on, cell phones that we use.”

Dhyani said the University has applied for a patent for this technology, which remains pending. In the meantime, Tuteja said two companies have already licensed their product: HygraTek, a membrane technology manufacturer he co-founded, and Prevada Medical, a medical device company co-founded by Scott VanEpps, another member of the research team. 

HygraTek has expressed interest in turning this coating into a stick-on film that individuals can apply to surfaces they want to keep sanitary, such as their cell phone screen. Prevada has licensed the technology to create an orthodontic foam to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia in hospital patients.

Tuteja highlighted that all 11 authors on this project are affiliated with the University. He said this speaks to the variety of perspectives and disciplines across campus.

“One of the big things is this is a completely U-M team,” Tuteja said. “All of the members are U-M (faculty), and it really highlights all of the different things that can be done within the University, from coming up with new materials all the way to actual real-world testing.”

Daily Staff Reporter Samantha Rich can be reached at sammrich@umich.edu.