BASF already has several antimicrobial polymer products in its HyGentic line which use integrated silver ions. In addition, it has a presence in self-cleaning and self-healing coatings, and also has invested in SLIPS Technologies which is developing an “omniphobic” coating as a surface lubricant.
The SLIPS investment suggests to us that BASF has a strong interest in smart materials and we note that this company has always been at the forefront of value-added materials markets. While the company may or may not take on smart antimicrobials, it does seem to have many of the technology components that it will need to effectively compete in this space.
Dow Chemical: Possibly Moving Beyond Silvadur
Dow Chemical’s current entry into the smart antimicrobial space is Silvadur, a patented silver-technology introduced in 2012 that delivers silver ions to fabric surfaces and activates them in the presence of undesirable bacteria.
According to Dow, Silvadur’s smartness is based on its ability to “react with itself and with the surface to provide its own cross-linked polymer on the surface,” binding the silver directly and releasing ions only when needed. The company says Silvadur outperforms particle silver and quat silane-based products common in the textile industry.
There’s not much to see here really in terms of smartness. However, it is a place to start for Dow, which has huge marketing and financial resources which could ultimately make it a force to be reckoned with in the smart antimicrobials space.
DSM Biomedical: Moving Close to a Smart Antimicrobial Offering
DSM Biomedical provides early examples of how antimicrobial coatings use of self-assembly and hydrophilic technology may emerge:
The company’s ComfortCoat and VitroStealth smart coatings have hydrophilic and non-biofouling properties, respectively. ComfortCoat ensures the lubricity and maneuvering capability of devices such as cardiovascular and urology catheters and short-term implanted devices.
VitroStealth remains permeable to biologically beneficial molecules such as glucose and oxygen, and also prevents the accumulation of unwanted proteins and other cellular particles on the surface of various devices ranging from biosensors to capillary tubes.
As n-tech sees it, such materials are just one step away from being smart antimicrobials and it would not be a surprise to see these materials evolve into microbe killers. This might occur if they (1) also exuded an antimicrobial substance, or (2) were redesigned in a clever way that killed microbes in some other way.
Life Material Technology: Openly Smart
Life Material Technology has explicitly targeted smart antimicrobials as an opportunity and describes itself as having developed “a portfolio of smart materials with applications in numerous industries.” The company’s core activity is incorporating antimicrobial additives into a variety of solid materials and coatings, including plastics, textiles, ceramics, and paper.
Life Materials’ core materials technology is compounded into pellet polymer carrier systems which can be mixed with plastic resin and molded into plastic products or extruded into fibers.
Microban: An Antimicrobial Branding Strategy
Microban is probably the best-known antimicrobial coating, found in over 1,000 products from 250 worldwide manufacturers in 30 countries. The firm has cast a very wide net for its antimicrobial coatings for surfaces in practically every corner of consumer and commercial use, from sinks to textiles to vacuums and gym equipment.
This is again another company at the early stages of making antimicrobials smart. Probably the Microban product that comes closest to smartness is the company’s silver product SilverShield.
However, if Microban takes on more smartness in its products, we see it as being extremely well established to gain a significant market share. Its well-established strategy is to adopt an “Intel inside” approach—pushing their own brand within the products of well-known consumer products firms. These currently include Moen, Rubbermaid, Bissell, DuPont, Oakley, Sharp, Kimberly Clark, Sherwin-Williams, and Medline, just to name a few.
Sciessent: Smarts and Branding
This is another one of the few companies that has embraced the label of “smart” for its products. At the same time, it has embraced a branding strategy similar to Microban.
Sciessent’s Agion antimicrobial products incorporate silver, copper and other elemental ions into a zeolite carrier. The ions exchange with other positive ions (often sodium) from the moisture in the environment, effecting a release of the antimicrobial elements “on demand.” The company’s Curb durable water repellent finish can be combined with the Agion antimicrobial technology.
Like Microban, Sciessent has built up a business through partnerships to embed its technologies into a wide range of products, from AK Coatings to DuPont to Vygon.