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Shape-Shifting Titanium Provides Hospitals with a Germ-Proof Sliding Doors Moment

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A University of Canterbury research team is another step closer to developing germ-proof surface coatings after an unexpected development in the lab. Once it is commercially available, an antimicrobial coating applied to high-traffic surfaces, such as door handles, will help minimise infections that spread within hospitals.

Research leader Prof Susan Krumdieck had been working with titanium oxide (TiO2) for more than a decade when the element suddenly changed form. “TiO2 is famously bright white or transparent, but one day the coating came out all black,” she says. “We set it aside because we really didn’t know what had happened. But then some undergraduate project students tested it for the self-cleaning performance, and it was so photo­catalytically active without any UV radiation that we knew we had discovered something new.”

TiO2 is used in sunscreens because it has the ability to absorb radiation. This action creates energy, which is expressed as oxygen ions, which are deadly to bacteria. TiO2 is therefore ideal for use on surfaces such as door handles in environments where sterility is a priority, such as hospitals.

Krumdieck pioneered the innovative coating technology during her PhD at the University of Colorado, and continued her research at UC. However, there were still two challenges to overcome – how to fix a TiO2 coating onto something like...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.