The AGH University of Science and Technology has developed an antimicrobial handrail demo system consisting of a railing and a staircase handrail. What is unique about the solution created by the AGH UST’s Faculty of Non-Ferrous Metals is the fact that the entire installation has been produced from a special copper alloy with antibacterial properties. The solution has been developed for use in public utility facilities to effectively combat the spread of pathogenic microorganisms.
Hospitals, railway stations, airports, buses, trams, schools, colleges, sports facilities and cinemas are just a few examples of public infrastructure where systems of antimicrobial railings, handrails and other objects with tactile surfaces made from copper should find practical application. Copper, which is characterised by its high electrical conductivity, is used predominantly in the energy sector. In addition, it has powerful medicinal properties, which have been known to people since ancient times. For example, the Egyptians used copper to treat drinking water, the people of the Persian Empire would apply copper for fractures and injuries, whereas Hippocrates, considered to be the ‘Father of Medicine’, recommended copper for the treatment of open wounds and irritated skin. Currently, one of the most common ways of spreading germs responsible for infections affecting human organism are the surfaces of door handles, light switches, handrails as well as many other objects of everyday life. Made from plastics or steel, they can be easily replaced by copper or its alloys, whose antimicrobial properties result in permanent eradication of bacteria from surfaces within one to a few hours.
Apart from the AGH University of Science and Technology, copper products such as bed rails and armrests, drip racks or light switches have been implemented by the Central District Hospital in Wrocław. Additionally, the Poznań-based Solaris Company – a leading Polish manufacturer of public transport vehicles – has used antibacterial copper handrail system in their Urbino line.
As the world develops, we are faced with an increasing number of drug resistant strains of bacteria, which in turn leads to a rise in the number of infections contracted by people in public facilities. Therefore, a copper-based antimicrobial system may turn out to be a highly efficient tool aimed at reducing the number of infections transmitted through direct and indirect contact.
Railings and handrails mounted on three floors of the University staircase consist of 5 thousand various elements and have been developed under a research and development project financed by the National Centre for Research and Development. The development work on the solution was conducted by the ‘Antybakter’ Consortium consisting of the AGH UST’s Faculty of Non-Ferrous Metals, the Department of Microbiology of the Jagiellonian University and the European Copper Institute.
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