02/07/2024 | Pressemitteilung

University launches project to develop biocide-free antimicrobial plastics

Plastic films that are not only self-disinfecting and permanently antimicrobial, but are also made from a biocide-free additive for plastics - this is what scientists from the Department of Plastics Technology at the University of Kassel want to develop in a joint project with the company Munditia Technologies GmbH (MUNDITECH). The underlying technology for producing antimicrobial surfaces is already being used successfully in paints and varnishes or in sprays. Preliminary tests show promising results for incorporating the biocide-free filler into plastics.

Symbolic image: Plastic manufacturing process.

Since the CoVid19 pandemic from 2020 to 2022, the development of antimicrobial plastics has developed rapidly. Plastic products with antimicrobial surfaces are widely used in the food industry, consumer products, medical technology and many other areas. However, they are not yet widespread across all markets. This is due to various disadvantages of the technologies used to date. For example, environmentally harmful biocides such as silver ions, copper compounds or other chemical substances are used in the production of antimicrobial plastic surfaces, which are also generally very expensive. In addition, these surfaces lose their effectiveness after some time and microorganisms develop resistance.

The aim of the project "DesiKu - self-disinfecting antimicrobial plastic surfaces without biocides (biocide-free)" is to develop a permanently biocide-free antimicrobial plastic film using the melt-mixing process (compounding). When this material comes into contact with microorganisms, hydrophobic interactions are activated which destroy their cell membranes and thus have an antimicrobial effect. A major advantage here is that the amount of material used remains low with the same effect, as the additive used is only added to the plastic film. The actual component under the film is not changed. In addition, the additive is added to the entire volume of the plastic. As a result, no abrasion phenomena and the associated loss of antimicrobial properties are to be expected. The project runs from October 2023 to September 2025 and is funded by the state of Hesse via the LOEWE program (State Offensive for the Development of Scientific and Economic Excellence, funding line 3: SME joint projects) with a sum of around 250,000 euros.

The production of a biocide-free antimicrobial plastic film offers enormous potential, especially for transparent touch display applications and monitors, such as mobile phone/tablet displays, car infotainment systems, ATMs, applications in the home user sector, in hospitals and in rail transport, etc. Non-transparent applications are also conceivable, e.g. for children's toys, keyboards or remote controls.

The project is being carried out as part of the "BiTWerk - Biological Transformation of Technical Materials" research cluster.

More information and contact: