Nanotouch Materials has created new self-cleaning products using nanotechnology. Credit: Nanotouch Materials

Schools, hospitals and office buildings may soon become much cleaner thanks to a new product that uses nanotechnology to turn everyday surfaces into self-cleaning surfaces.

NanoTouch Materials, a Virginia-based company, has unveiled the New Clean NanoSeptic Self-Cleaning Surfaces—skins and mats that can be adhered to most any surface, keeping dirty, high traffic public touchpoints like door handles and countertops continuously clean.

Mark Sisson, who co-founded NanoTouch along with Dennis Hackemeyer, said in an interview with R&D Magazine that the products are specifically designed for certain surfaces and areas.

“Everything we create is a finished product meant to be applied to a specific area...counter mats for reception counters, peel and stick skins for door handles, and portable mats for travel,” he said. “The only surfaces that we generally avoid are curved or architectural door handles.

“It's difficult to get the skins to form around irregular shapes,” he added. “So we stick to push bars and pads...uniform profile touch points.”

NanoSeptic utilizes mineral nano-crystals to create an oxidation reaction stronger than bleach, without using poisons, heavy metals or chemicals. The nano-crystals, charged by visible light, act as a catalyst and the oxidation reaction breaks down organic material into base components including CO2, enabling the surface to continuously oxidize organic contaminants at the microscopic level.

For the NanoSeptic materials to work, large-scale contaminants must still be removed, similar to how disinfectants require surfaces to be cleaned before the disinfectant can be effective.

Because the nano-crystals are molecularly bonded to the material, they do not release anything from the surface, meaning that they do not expire or get used up.

“The only limitation would be to avoid any type of abrasive cleanser that would physically wear the material,” Sisson said.

The company is currently awaiting patent approval for several of their products and Sisson said they continue to expand their selections. Products include the NanoSeptic Mats for Portable/Movable Applications, which are available in multiple sizes for travel mats, student snack mats, and larger tray table and counter mats.

The NanoSeptic Peel-and-Stick Skins for Facility Touch Points and Fixed Applications also provide a self-cleaning touch point for door push pads, push bars, handle wraps, desktop skins and grocery cart handle wraps.

The company also created travel versions in a tamper-evident travel pouch and specialty products, including a counter mat with window pocket, mouse pad, channel guide, reusable tissue box covers and surfaces for mobile phones and tablets.

Sisson explained that the cleaning tools are ideal for medical facilities, schools and commercial cleaning companies.

“Doctors love our products because the patients see self-cleaning surfaces and assume the rest of the facility is cleaner, improving the perception of their healthcare and improving overall patient experience,” he said. “Parents love our products in schools because they feel better about the cleanliness of the facility they send their children to.

“And the industry that seems to benefit the most is commercial cleaning,” Sisson added. “We have janitorial companies that offer their commercial clients a new ‘Gold Level’ cleaning service, which includes installation and maintenance of self-cleaning surfaces which work in between the routine cleaning. The commercial cleaning industry has become very commoditized, basically because the service they provide is invisible.”

According to Sisson, last summer a special version of the mat built to adhere to the inside of a security bin was deployed at the Akron-Canton Airport after almost a year of testing by TSA.

“This is a particularly good application since the first thing you do is put your shoes in the that were probably walking on a restroom floor,” Sisson said. “Then the next traveler puts their glasses, keys, phone, wallet, etc. on that same surface.”

While clean surfaces obviously are beneficial, Sisson said he was surprised by one particular reaction to the products.

“One of the most intriguing aspects of our products is how they affect people psychologically,” he said. “What the product does is pretty cool, but how it makes people feel is something we hadn't predicted.

“Because the products are visible and communicate what they do, people feel safer and more secure in a facility.”