Within "FlexPol", an EU project, an international project consortium led by Fraunhofer IPT develops a manufacturing approach to apply antimicrobial surface structures extensively and cost-efficiently in adhesive films. Combining material and surface structure, a wide range of germs can be killed at 99.99% efficiency and their growth can be slowed down.
Germs in hospitals can lead to life-threatening infections, not least in particularly vulnerable patients. Strong disinfectants and cleaning agents are used to clean surfaces off bacteria. The »FlexPol« research project, however, capitalizes on a combination of materials and surface structures which directly inhibit and prevent the spread of germs. This way, patient health is protected as well as that of medical personnel, as strict hygiene standards require in medical environments. This is also of economic benefit: Expenses for cleaning detergents and disinfectants can be greatly reduced.
The project starts with formulating the material. A polypropylene basis is interspersed with nano-capsules and extruded to form a thin film. These nano-capsules contain essential oils with antimicrobial properties. Hot stamping adds nanostructures to the film which inhibit adhesion of bacteria and fungal spores. The structures are chosen to damage the membranes of the microbes mechanically and kill the pathogens. The Fraunhofer IPT combines the film material, stamping tools and instruments to monitor product quality in one single pilot line. The challenge of this production process is to apply the antimicrobial surface structures smoothly and extensively onto the film material. Another challenge is to transform the production process of the innovative films into an industry-oriented process. We aim to prove the transfer of materials, structures and processes which so far has only been tested in the lab.
The Donostia University Hospital in Spain and the laboratories of Minho University in Portugal examine and assess suitability and efficiency of the films. The idea is to cover entire walls and floors in hospitals in the film and to minimize microbial contamination across a wide space. Later, industries other than the medical industry, too, will be able to benefit from this antimicrobial film, for instance the food industry or manufacturers of public transport and public restrooms.
The project is funded by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 program at a total of €5.17mio. The total costs are €5.68mio.
Funding ID: H2020-NMBP-PILOTS-2016