Infection control ‘technovation’ from Wits researcher, Michael Lucas

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A leapfrog new Antimicrobial Coating Technology that strengthens infection control measures in medical facilities, food processing plants and public transport environments, amongst others, has been developed by Wits PhD academic, Michael Lucas. His award-winning solution will help to protect people against nosocomial infections, which are often acquired during hospital stays.

The engineering postgraduate recently took top honours at the International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control in Switzerland for his high-tech innovation, as he received the prestigious Prix Hubert Tuor Innovation Award. Infection control is an ongoing challenge, particularly in hospitals, he said.

He explained: “Surface contamination and subsequent microbial transmission are known contributors to this. My design for a self-sanitising surface coating serves to address this growing problem and the results are very promising. These antimicrobial coatings can be applied to high contact surfaces where there is a risk of contamination.”

Lucas’ Antimicrobial Coating Technology is in its fifth year of development. It was validated through extensive laboratory tests, as well as preliminary pilot studies, which included the use of coated security access cards and a custom coated smartphone cover exposed to various healthcare associated environments in the University of the Witwatersrand’s Medical School and Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.

Metal coated plastics are an emerging field of research and development with a wide range of applications. The distinguishing features of the research include the novelty of multi-step and multi-process additive manufacturing through the use of cold spray and polymer 3D printing. The uniqueness of his innovative way of depositing the coatings is a competitive advantage that Wits University is protecting through a patent.

“The next steps include verifying the safety of the coatings for the intended application and to assess the coatings’ efficacy in real world hospital high contact surface environments. This is the start of taking the technology to market,” he concluded with a resolute focus to turn his technology into a viable start up business. 

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