Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

Category: CASE Studentships

SMART: SMart ARchiTecture – use of antimicrobial copper alloys in public infection prevention strategies

Project No. 2372


Primary Supervisor

Dr Sandra Wilks – University of Southampton


Prof William Keevil – University of Southampton

Mr Mike McGrath – Copper Cover Ltd (the UK branch of Necon Technologies) (CASE Partner)


The COVID-19 pandemic brought into focus the need for safety in our public spaces, as well as in healthcare facilities, indeed seeing a dramatic increase in use of cleaning products and in consideration of ventilation.

Surface contamination remains a concern and while the use of antimicrobial materials has been studied in healthcare settings, their wider use has still not been fully explored. In parallel, we are beginning to understand the impact of dry biofilms and recent work, including from a completed PhD studentship in our laboratory, has revealed the widespread nature of these structures and complex microbial communities.

Building on our previous work on both the antimicrobial (anti-bacterial, fungal and viral) activity of copper and copper alloys, and our understanding of the development of dry biofilms, this project aims to track dry biofilm formation under controlled laboratory conditions and modelling, as well as monitoring the efficacy of antimicrobial copper coatings and the impact on the environmental microbiome, to determine whether smart architectural choices can be used to provide enhanced infection prevention in our public and domestic spaces.

1. Understanding the development and structure of dry biofilms under controlled laboratory conditions.
a. drip flow reactors and different combinations of bacterial species and viruses.
b. tracking the impact of touch using a simulated thumb mechanical model and a novel artificial sweat medium.
c. analysis using culture methods and advanced imaging techniques

2. Assessing the antimicrobial activity of different copper alloys versus non-treated materials using the methods from Aim 1.

3. Determining the antimicrobial efficacy and long-term effects on environmental microbiome by comparing non-coated and coated materials in a public space (e.g. student halls of residence or healthcare facility).
a. swab samples over time to demonstrate long-term and seasonal changes.
b. use culture and sequencing technologies to determine changes in community diversity.