Barnstaple firm develops new anti-Covid alloy to replace stainless steel

Professor Bill Keevil, one of the world’s leading microbiologists

Professor Bill Keevil, one of the world’s leading microbiologists - Credit: Devon Star Media

A new copper-based alloy has demonstrated its ability to kill the Covid virus on impact.  

Developed by the Hygi Group, based in Barnstaple, the alloy is set to play a significant part in future management of the Covid virus, offering a viable anti-covid replacement for stainless steel in public buildings and spaces.

The results come from a team of scientists at the University of Southampton, led by Professor Bill Keevil, one of the world’s leading microbiologists, he said: “Many public and private buildings have touch surfaces made from stainless steel, such as door handles, push-plates, hand rails and the like.  

“Unfortunately, not only does stainless steel do nothing to inactivate the virus, it can actually harbour it for days if not weeks, even after cleaning. When people cough or sneeze, or even speak loudly, they're producing thousands of particles in the air, which eventually all settle, and when touched will get transported.

“There’s a lot of confusion, and, frankly, misinformation, over what percentage of infections are caused via touch surface. My experience tells me touch surface transmission is a significant factor in the spread of Covid, as indeed it has been with Influenza.”

Exeter Chiefs' Josh Hodge using a HYGI Metal protected door

Exeter Chiefs' Josh Hodge using a HYGI Metal protected door - Credit: Devon Star Media


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Explaining why stainless steel in particular is such a hidden danger, Professor Keevil said: “It appears to be clean and shiny, but hides a multitude of sins. Under the microscope we see lots of pits and crevices where pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can hide, even after cleaning.”

Test results showed that on the new alloy the Covid virus was almost completely eliminated in 90 minutes, and totally so within 2 hours. Professor Keevil stated: “In ‘real life’ conditions the virus would actually be killed even faster as these results are based on laboratory conditions using high concentrations of the virus.”

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The new alloy is likely to be a gamechanger for the construction industry. Phillip Ansell, Head of Design Management at Skanska said: “This could be a significant product for managing health on touch surfaces, door handles and rails.”

Exeter Chiefs, recent English and European Rugby Champions, were the first to be offered installation. Chief Executive and chairman Tony Rowe said: “The health and safety of players, staff and fans are always at the forefront of our minds. You can’t see any difference, but now we have something that kills the virus.”

HYGI Metal starts killing bacteria and viruses on impact

HYGI Metal starts killing bacteria and viruses on impact - Credit: Devon Star Media

Mark Isaacs, stadium operations manager said: “It will already make our changing room area safer, and with development of our new East Stand, people will know this is a really safe stadium to visit.”  

Crucially, the Hygi metal will perform 24/7 whether scratched or damaged. Professor Keevil commented: “Hygi Metal will work over the lifetime of the product. Unlike coatings, there are no issues over wear and tear. It’s a long-term solution. “  

Hygi-Group Managing Director Aaron Yeo said: “Coatings and the like can scuff and still harbour the virus. We needed a solid alloy that actually kills the virus itself. Previous copper-based alloys hadn't provided what the market demanded, so I knew we had to match stainless steel in appearance. We also had to make sure it was at least as strong and durable. Plus, it had to be malleable enough to be adapted into any size or shape.  When we found the right formula it was a massive breakthrough.”  

Professor Keevil concluded: “Field tests of anti-microbial copper in USA hospitals have shown a 90% reduction in the numbers of pathogens and, importantly, a greater than 58% reduction in infection rates. This new alloy developed in the UK will also be useful in the education sector, at transport hubs, sports stadia and entertainment venues, etc. Indeed, anywhere with high human traffic. Hygi Group in Barnstaple should be very pleased by what they have achieved.”

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