Smart surfaces to tackle infection and antimicrobial resistance: A LifeProven Review


LifeProven Wellbeing Framework Tag #antimicrobialsurfaces


Jonathan Otter, Kieran Brophy, Jonathan Palmer, Nicholas Harrison, Jason Riley, Daryl Williams, Gerald Larrouy-Maumus

Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering - Imperial College London


Important Definitions


Relating to or characteristic of a microorganism, especially a bacterium causing disease or fermentation. "skin is a major source of microbial contamination during a surgical procedure"

Anti-Microbial Surface

Surface which contains an anti-microbial agent to inhibit the spread or growth of bacteria or microorganisms on the materials surface.


A biofilm is a thick layer of prokaryotic organisms that have aggregated to form a colony. The colony attaches to a surface with a slime layer which aids in protecting the microorganisms


Report Issues

  1. Contaminated surfaces contribute to transmission of antimicrobial resistance

  2. "Surface attached biofilms (communities of microbial and non-microbial matter on surfaces) support microbial survival, persistence, and can protect microbes from attack by biocides and antibiotics"

  3. Biofilms play role in several infection pathways, the most relevant for buildings is water-borne infections through pseudomonas and legionella

Report Recommendations

  1. Antimicrobial surfaces could disrupt the microbial habit by reducing microbial attachment and/or killing attached microbes.

  2. Transforming the clinical environment to have touch surfaces with antimicrobial properties (e.g. coated bed rails) particularly for the prevention of infection in vulnerable patient groups

  3. antimicrobial surfaces should be developed with low and middle-income (LMIC) settings in mind, where these surfaces could mitigate the impact of additional challenges related to LMIC settings (such as lack of power and clean water)

Interesting Aspects

  1. A surface can be tailored as either anti-microbial (inhibit ability of microbes on surfaces) or anti-adhesive (inhibit microbe ability to attach to surfaces).

  2. Cicada insects have natural antimicrobial defense on surface of their wings, having a nanospike covering which punctures the membrane of the bacteria before it can attach to the surface of their wings

  3. Copper or copper alloys such as brass or bronze have natural antimicrobial agents with ability to kill bacteria quickly. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found that copper alloys killed more than 99.9% of disease causing bacteria in under 2 hours. But, the surfaces required regular cleaning to maintain effectiveness.

  4. Copper kills bacteria by copper ions entering the bacteria, inhibiting the function and cell walls integrity and also kills fungal bacteria “copper could be used in air-conditioning systems in buildings, particularly in hospital environments where patients are more susceptible to fungal infections."


LifeProven Property Recommendations

  1. Surfaces which are touched regularly by people in high traffic areas to have antimicrobial properties to prevent infection spread.

  2. Antimcrobial surface ambitions to be specified within project brief

  3. New Build - Antimicrobial surface specifications developed through detailed design with design team

  4. Existing Building - Antimicrobial surface specifications applied as a liquid agent to high risk surfaces throughout existing buildings

  5. Consider using copper or copper alloys (brass or bronze) as antimicrobial surface materials

Consider in These Building Types:

a. High usage and densely populated buildings:

a. High rise buildings

b. Hospitals

c. Residential (apartments, student, aged care etc.)

d. Offices

e. Shopping centers

b. Buildings with vulnerable occupant groups

a. Elderly or aged care housing

b. Overcrowded housing (HMO's, Student Accom)

c. Hospitals

Consider in These Locations:

a. High traffic or high use door handles, door push panels, door locks (toilet cubicles)

b. High traffic or high use balustrades (ground to third floor is highest use levels of stair)

c. Common areas and shared spaces

LifeProven Property Benefits

  1. Reduces the risk of infection and potential spread of infection within a building resulting in increased protection for building occupants health and wellbeing. This can be used for marketing benefits to provide peace of mind to occupants; as well as protecting the operation of the asset, as the spread of disease through a building can result in inability to pay rent or lease as well as void periods impaction financial performance.

  2. Improves the control over the high traffic areas of the physical environment, which may reduce the need or regularity of disinfectant use reducing chemical exposure for cleaning staff and building occupants as well as reducing costs for materials and labour to undertake disinfection.


Video Summary

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Smart Surfaces to Tackle Infection and A
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