Irish antibacterial tiles selected as star EU-funded research and innovation project at Innovation Convention Expo
Irish technology that kills MRSA and other disease-causing pathogens is playing a star role at the first European Innovation Convention taking place in Brussels on 5th & 6th December 2011.
Pictured are Dr. Brendan Duffy (left) and Dr. Suresh Pillai, researchers at CREST DIT who used Enterprise Ireland funding to create antimicrobial coatings which are used by Vitra Ireland in the manufacture of ceramic tiles. The tiles will be on display at EU Innovation Convention in Brussels 5th-6th December and the EU Commissioner for Innovation Maire Geoghegan-Quinn will visit the only Irish stand at the convention to learn about this innovative product. Photo credit: Gary O’Neill Photo.
The light-activated antibacterial surface coating has been developed by a team at the Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology (CREST) in Dublin Institute of Technology, working with ceramic manufacturer VitrA Ireland with funding from Enterprise Ireland.
It is one of 50 star projects selected from over 450 entries to participate in Europe’s premier innovation event. The Innovation Convention 2011 will be led by the President of the European Commission, Mr. José Manuel Barroso and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. The Crest Centre in DIT is the only Irish research organisation represented at the Convention.
The Irish exhibit features tiles manufactured by VitrA Ireland with an antibacterial coating that kills pathogens when exposed to light. The photocatalytic technology was originally developed by a research team at DIT using funding from Enterprise Ireland. The technology was converted from a research project into a commercial product when Robert Hickson, MD of VitrA Ireland, wanted to develop the photocatalytic technology for use on ceramics.
Through the Enterprise Ireland funded Innovation Partnership programme, the CREST team overcame the challenges of using indoor light to activate the coating, and ensuring the coating could be fired in the kiln and maintain its sterilising properties. VitrA is now licensing the technology from DIT on an exclusive basis for use on its products worldwide.
Tests carried out by DIT and by the accredited lab Airmid Health Group in Dublin have found the technology is 99.99 per cent efficient at killing the hospital ‘superbug’ MRSA, E. coli and the fungus that causes athlete’s foot.
“We believe it will also be active against other bacteria and micro-organisms,” says Dr. Suresh Pillai, Senior R&D Manager at CREST. He describes how the technology could have applications in the healthcare setting, swimming pools, schools and gyms.
“VitrA is known for excellence in design and technology, and we are very active in commercial projects such as airports and hotels, leisure centres and hospitals around the world,” says Hickson. “This global reach gives us an excellent platform to launch new products and technologies.”
According to Dr. Martin Lyes, Enterprise Ireland, “this partnership between VitrA Ireland and the research team at CREST DIT shows how EU funding for networking in science brought together leading companies, research centres and universities, enhancing Europe’s innovation and creating jobs”.
The photocatalytic technology will be exhibited at stand number 14 under the banner PHONASUMat the Innovation Convention in the meeting square, Brussels on December 5th and 6th 2011.
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How the photocatalytic technology works:
Keeping surfaces free from potentially harmful micro-organisms can often require detergents, elbow grease or expensive UV light. But the technology developed by the CREST team at Dublin Institute of Technology could do the job at the flick of a light switch and could help in the fight against infections such as MRSA.
The clever coating reacts to light by generating tiny molecular species called free radicals, which blitz micro-organisms at the surface.
To make it work, the semiconductor titanium dioxide has been engineered to be activated by indoor light, which is less expensive and more practical than using UV light, explains Dr Suresh Pillai, Senior R&D Manager at CREST.
The semiconductor coating is applied to a ceramic surface by spraying it onto a product, then heating it. Once in place, if light falls on the coating, the movement of electrons in the activated material and interaction with moisture in the air results in the creation of free radicals at the surface. These highly reactive species are like molecular chainsaws that can damage organic molecules and structures in micro-organisms.
For more information on the Innovation Convention Expo 2011 visit http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/ic2011/index_en.cfm