University spin-out develops self-disinfecting device

Monday, 09 October, 2017


Scientists at the University of Leeds have developed a self-disinfecting device called Surfaceskins.

The product was developed with an aim to bolster hand hygiene by incorporating the specially engineered textile in a device designed to be used on hospital doors instead of the traditional aluminium door plate, the part of the door that people push to open it.

It incorporates three separate non-woven textiles and is designed to be replaced after seven days or one thousand pushes, whichever comes sooner. The antibacterial door pads are not meant to replace the strict handwashing rules in hospitals, but instead provide an extra line of defence by helping clean hands to stay clean.

Surfaceskins is a collaboration between the Nonwovens Innovation and Research Institute Ltd (NIRI) — a spin-out company from the university’s School of Design — and two industrial designers, Adam Walker and Simon Scott-Harden. NIRI helps companies bring new textile ideas to market or to enhance or improve existing products or manufacturing processes. Surfaceskins is just one of 200-plus collaborative research projects the university has with business investors.

A study into the effectiveness of the product was recently published in the Journal of Hospital Infection. At the start of the study, both the Surfaceskins and control aluminium door plates were inoculated with bacteria at levels found on the hands of hospital staff. The study concluded that the Surfaceskins door pads were more effective than standard door plates over seven days in reducing the levels of three bacteria that commonly cause hospital-acquired infections: S. aureus, E. coli and E. faecalis.

Mark Wilcox, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Leeds, who led the independent evaluation, said Surfaceskins door pads offer a new way to reduce the risk of the spread of bacteria and viruses in hospital environments and other settings where frequent contact with doors could undermine hand hygiene.

Four patents protect the innovation behind Surfaceskins. The device is fitted into a plastic holster which is attached to the door. Surfaceskins contain a reservoir of alcohol gel and a membrane with tiny valves that dispense the gel onto the surface where it is pressed when opening a door, self-disinfecting it within seconds.

Chris Fowler, chief executive of NIRI, the spin-out firm that has developed the device, said, “In addition to the successful NHS trials, many organisations outside health care have expressed serious interest in introducing these self-disinfecting products. Surfaceskins can play an important role wherever door users have an interest in maintaining clean hands.”

The company has also developed a door handle using the Surfaceskins technology, for doors which open towards you. The product is being targeted at other industrial sectors where there is a need for meticulous hand hygiene, such as in catering and hospitality.

On the back of successful trials and agreed distribution deals, the company is now looking for £600,000 investment to expand its sales network and production capability in Leeds.

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University spin-out develops self-disinfecting device

Scientists at the University of Leeds have developed a self-disinfecting device called Surfaceskins.

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