Feb 24, 2021 12:00:00 AM | Written by AMPCO METAL

Copper has some outstanding properties. Many of whom we have already highlighted in previous blogposts. One, however, has not yet been mentioned: copper and copper alloys such as brass, bronze and copper-nickel are well know for their antimicrobial properties!

If you look back a little in history, you will see that ancient civilizations already discovered the antimicrobial properties of copper. For instance, the Egyptians used copper to disinfect drinking water or wounds. And the ancient Romans also discovered that water was of better quality when it was transported or stored in copper containers. However, they did not yet know the exact reasons for this. It was not until the 19th century that light was shed on the reasons behind the health benefits of copper.

What are antimicrobial properties?

If a material has antimicrobial properties, the corresponding material inhibits the growth of so-called microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi or micro-algae that are invisible to the naked eye. Since many of these microorganisms can be hazardous to health, materials with antimicrobial properties are very important in todays society.

Various studies, including one from the american society for microbiology (ASM), find that bacteria and viruses do not survive long on copper surfaces. Depending on the alloy, their survival time varies from a few minutes to two hours. The higher the copper content of the alloy, the faster the microorganisms are killed. Responsible for this are the copper irons. They destroy the cell membrane and thus penetrate into the interior of the microorganisms and kill them off.

Where do the antimicrobial properties of copper come into play?

80 % of all germ transmissions take place through indirect contact transmission: Stair railings, door or window handles and the like are all sources of viruses and bacteria. When producing such objects, it is worth considering using copper. Since copper and copper alloys inactivates bacteria that can cause infections by
99.9 % within two hours, it can help reduce germ transmissions.

Especially in health-care facilities, copper can save lives. Around 30 % of hospital infections are preventable. While disinfectants such as ethanol or other cleaning agents provide temporary protection, copper surfaces work around the clock.

But the antimicrobial properties of copper also offer advantages in other places: heating and ventilation systems as well as air conditioning units are usually found in dark, damp and warm environments. Mould thrives very readily in such places. These are not only harmful to health, but can also impair the system efficiency of the technology. Copper materials can inhibit the growth of such organisms. Thus, air conditioning units can benefit from antimicrobial copper materials, especially in filters, cooling fins and pipes.

In the kitchen, copper can prevent food poisoning thanks to its antimicrobial properties. Incidentally, it also retains this in cold rooms and up to 4 degrees Celsius. Other places of use: In schools and kindergartens, in public transport or in hotels and restaurants – in short: everywhere where many people come together and touch highly frequented surfaces.

Why you should choose copper

The antimicrobial properties of copper contribute to a significant improvement in hygiene. In particular, copper is resistant even under high stress: scratches, patina formation or other damage do not impair its antimicrobial properties. Surfaces made of copper or copper alloys therefore have a long-term resistance to harmful microorganisms. Since around 80 % of all germ transmission takes place through indirect contact transmission, this makes copper materials very interesting for door handles, railings or other highly frequented surfaces.

Furthermore, copper is a natural and sustainable material and therefore  100 % recyclable. Moreover, thanks to its purity and long service life, copper is one of the pioneers of environmentally friendly materials.

Expert team AMPCO METAL