University of Canterbury antimicrobial research receives Gold, again!

The Advanced Energy and Material Lab (AEMSLab), a multidisciplinary research group at University of Canterbury, made leaps and bounds in their research in 2017, receiving our Gold Status rating for the second year in a row.

Their research is focused on creating self-cleaning surface coatings that destroy bacteria and viruses as well as pollutants in air and water, simply by being exposed to light. This technology can apply hard-wearing antimicrobial coatings on buttons, knobs, handles and rails in hospitals, which will reduce the viability of microbe transmission.

There is great commercial interest in getting antimicrobial coating onto touch-surfaces where incidental transmission occurs. The coating being developed in the MBIE-funded project is a non-toxic photocatalyst ceramic, similar to a ceramic-coated frying pan, but which produces continuous oxygen radicals at the surface – burning up the microbes left there by hands, but also by contact with clothing and other objects.

One of the project’s leads Professor Susan Krumdieck says the need for this technology is more urgent than ever before.

“Hospital-acquired infections affect both vulnerable and relatively healthy people, largely through incidental transmission rather than through any breakdown of hygiene protocols. It is ironic that despite more and more aggressive antibacterial cleaning agents, these infections, particularly from antibiotic resistant organisms (super bugs), are a growing problem in modern hospitals. We discovered a coating material that has shown high lethality to E-coli in the light, and even in the dark. Both my father and the father of one of our team have gotten quite sick from infections after minor surgeries - which shows the importance of the work we are doing.”


The successful project is led by Dr Catherine Bishop in Materials Science and Professor Susan Krumdieck in Mechanical Engineering, but also includes a wider group including Chemical and Process Engineering, Biology and Chemistry researchers.

The team is working with New Zealand-based Koti Technologies who have patented the material, called Koti BlackTM, and will commercialise the technology and get the antimicrobial coatings into mass manufacture. Koti are also exploring a range of applications for the coating technology, including air and water treatment, food preservation, and industrial catalysis.

The work also involves collaborators at Callaghan Innovation, GNS Science, Lincoln Agritech and top research groups in the UK, France and the USA.

“One really exciting partnership we made last year was with a world-leading research group in photocatalysis at Imperial College London. We made samples for them which demonstrated never before seen efficiency at using solar energy to produce hydrogen. This collaboration has led to requests for more samples, even more research questions and a publication in a top journal for the group,” says Professor Krumdieck.

What next for the team

“It is great to get the recognition of our work by receiving the Gold Status from MBIE,” said Professor Krumdieck.

“Our work has attracted interest from manufacturers in three countries, which is really unique for academic research. The technology we use to make the coating has been developed at UC over the past 10 years and could be ready for manufacturers to use in their antimicrobial products by 2020 or sooner. We have worked previously on heat shield coatings in an invited collaboration with the USA National Hypersonic Science Center, which was quite exciting. But this coating could have so much benefit for people like my dad, it is really something to get excited about.”