Touchscreen devices are everywhere. We use them every day to communicate with our friends, read the news, purchase train tickets and order food – be it from a mobile app or a fast food outlet. Before COVID-19 (coronavirus), we’d rarely blink an eye at touching a shared screen. Now, in this ‘new normal’, we’re viewing the world though a very different lens.

Back in 2018, touchscreens at a fast food chain were investigated for bacterial strains and how easily one touchscreen could transmit disease from one person to another. Several different types of bacterial strains were found in eight UK restaurants.

As we’re unlikely to avoid touchscreen technology all together in the ‘new normal’, scientists and manufacturers are developing a new antimicrobial coating that is suitable for glass. By using nano-copper particles they can help prevent and protect the user from a range of harmful microbes. The antiviral component of the coating (the copper nanoparticles) release copper ions at the coated surface; these can disrupt the cell membrane of bacteria, or coating of a virus, thereby breaking the microbe open. The copper ions can also bind to essential proteins or genetic material inside the organism, destroying it and preventing the microbe from replicating.Ultimately, surface bacteria and potential viruses lingering on the screen are killed, stopping transmission to the user. 

While the technology is in its infancy, recent studies have shown that copper can be used to protect against several bacterial strains and respiratory viruses, including SARS and MERS. At Promethean Particles, we’re continuing to investigate the significant anti-microbial and anti-viral benefits nano-copper technology could have for touchscreen technologies. Ideal for shared devices such as cinema ticketing screens, fast-food restaurants, train stations and more, it is a major step into preventing the spread of human disease.

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