Public Relevance

New Market Applications

The following is an excerpt from Jonathan Gosberg's "Getting the Red Metal Into the Black" from Nov/Dec 2009 issue of The Crucible, a publication of the Non-Ferrous Founders’ Society.

Download the full article [PDF - 316 KB]

Architectural. No longer just another pretty facade, copper has been proven to benefit human health. Architects, engineers and designers can now incorporate copper into their designs from the onset, using the naturally antimicrobial metal on touch surfaces in public places, such as offices, schools, hospitals, and barracks to combat the spread of infection. Imagine doors, hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms – all designed to literally fight harmful bacteria.

Consumer Appliances. In addition to touch surfaces, there are other areas of a kitchen or bathroom where copper can deliver health benefits. In addition to the aesthetically pleasing look of copper alloys, already found in high-end cookware, copper can also be used in high-end kitchen appliances. Touch surfaces on blenders, microwaves, coffee makers and other kitchen appliances can benefit from the natural ability of copper to combat E coli., and other harmful microorganisms.

The Future is Looking Bright. Looking toward future applications, testing has proven copper effective against harmful fungal and microbial organisms. In addition, U.S. Department of Defense- funded test trials are currently being run to determine the efficacy of copper in additional applications. Positive results will exponentially increase the usefulness of copper across several industries.

Copper metals are suitable for fabrication of a wide range of touch surfaces; including bed rails, food trays and carts, handrails, IV poles, sinks, faucets, shower and lavatory components, work surfaces, door handles, grab bars, computer keyboards, equipment adjustment knobs, face plates, and other service components. Product applications can involve multiple types of military and public facilities, ranging from medical and healthcare institutions to food-processing and service areas, military barracks, office buildings, hotels, gymnasiums and athletic facilities, nursing homes, daycare centers, schools, penal institutions, transportation depots.

Unlike any other construction materials, copper and its alloys are effective for the lifetime of the product. They are not reliant on coatings or impregnated surfaces, which may wear away or wash away and have limited lives. The use of copper metals can also prevent the build-up of bacteria in areas of limited access, such as in bearings or hardware crevices, typically found in medical equipment, furnishings, hardware, beds and other apparatuses.

Copper alloys are microbiocidal within a matter of hours. CDA-sponsored research demonstrates that these materials are effective against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, molds, fungi and viruses, including MRSA, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Legionella pneumophila, Aspergillus niger, and Influenza A, among other pathogens.

The use of copper metals in healthcare room products and surfaces would considerably mitigate multidrug-resistant bacteria and reduce the risk of cross-contamination between staff, patients and visitors in critical care areas. Once proven in a hospital environment, the use of copper touch surfaces has wide applicability in numerous public settings.