A partnership between Aston University scientists and industry partners has led to the rapid launch of a range of alcohol-free sanitiser products to combat Covid-19.
Midlands-based EcoMotive has been able to develop its Hygiene Pro range of long-lasting hand, surface and vehicle sanitisers with help from Aston University's Smarterials programme.
While most sanitisers currently on the market contain alcohol - which evaporates rapidly on contact with the skin - the Hygiene Pro liquid is completely alcohol-free, non-flammable and non-toxic, as well as being kinder to skin. Its formulation means it forms a protective 'shield' on hands for up to six hours and remains effective in killing bacteria and viruses on surfaces for up to 20 hours.
EcoMotive had already been working with Aston University before the coronavirus outbreak to develop fuel additives to reduce harmful vehicle emissions. But on seeing problems with the current approach to frequent hand-sanitising and the need for an odourless, alcohol-free alternative that could kill Covid-19, the firm quickly turned its attention to tackling the problem.
EcoMotive worked with materials scientists from the Smarterials team, part of the Aston Institute of Materials Research (AIMR), who helped the company by refining the chemical formulations behind the sanitiser and getting it tested and certified to the required standards by a UK laboratory.
The company is now marketing the new products and has received orders from big names such as Amazon as well as leading nationwide motor factors, food production firms, doctors' and dentists' surgeries and builders' merchants, among others.
Aston University's European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-funded Smarterials programme helps small to medium sized companies (SMEs) develop and grow their business through partnerships built on research, testing and expertise in materials science.
The programme gives SMEs access to some of the leading academic minds in disciplines such as materials science, chemical engineering and chemistry, as well as the use of state-of-the-art labs for testing.
EcoMotive has also joined one of Aston's 'Industry Clubs', which allow firms ranging from SMEs to large multinationals to gain access to academic expertise and the University's talent pool of students for placements and longer-term job opportunities. The clubs also enable firms to participate in course curriculums by setting industry-relevant projects for students.
Professor Paul Topham, head of the Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry (CEAC) Department and director of the Smarterials programme at Aston University, said: "This is a great example of how our strong partnerships with SMEs result in practical solutions to real-world problems. It's incredibly satisfying to see that our work with EcoMotive has led to safer, longer-lasting sanitisers coming on stream so quickly to better protect people from Covid-19. We are excited to see how much more work we can do with companies to make real differences to our local, national and global communities."
Akhil Valjee, managing director of EcoMotive, said: "It has been great to have the opportunity to work with Aston University and be part of the Smarterials programme. It has allowed us to get new products to market that are tried and tested and also developed to be better than what is on the market at the moment. Hopefully this will be a long and ongoing relationship that will deliver many more unique and effective products in the future."