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Brief Published: 6 May 2020

Post-Covid-19 Material Choices: Combative Copper

Activat3D Copper by Spee3D

As attention turns to life post-pandemic, ways to impede the spread of the virus are a key concern. Due to its antimicrobial properties, a number of manufacturers are turning to copper as a potential material for safer hard surfaces and textiles.  

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the virus that causes Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) can persist on some hard surfaces for several days. Copper, which is naturally antiviral, was shown to eliminate the virus within four hours, while it was able to last for up to three days on plastic, two days on stainless steel and one day on cardboard. 

Australian metal additive supplier Spee3D is considering ways to reduce the survival of the virus in high-traffic public places, using copper. It has developed Activat3D Copper, a technology that allows the metal to be 3D printed rapidly and affordably. The firm’s 3D printers can coat existing metal parts with copper, avoiding the need to print solid pieces from scratch. This process could be employed across common metal touchpoints – such as door handles, push plates and railings.

Meanwhile, copper-infused textiles could offer a solution for reusable protective items, like facemasks. British nanoparticle producer Promethean Particles is collaborating with researchers and textile manufacturers to explore using nano-copper in fabrics in the healthcare sector.

The company’s research has found that nano-copper can be embedded into polymer fibres (such as nylon) to create a longer-lasting antimicrobial effect; more so than other similar fabrics on the market, which are often surface-coated and thus lose functionality with each wash.

Similarly, Czech nanofibre firm Respilon Group has developed the ReSpimask which features a copper dioxide-infused filter layer, designed to capture and kill viruses like Covid-19.

As hygiene and safety become more important, the materials we use for both personal protection and in our material environments should be carefully considered. See Materials For Future Cities for more on materials in tomorrow’s urban landscapes.