Microbial colonisation of surfaces forms a dangerous reservoir for pathogens contributing to the spread of infections which can cause significant cost to human life and the economy at large.

There is a tangible need for innovative antimicrobial coatings that are highly effective, safe, self-disinfecting and removing bacteria, fungi and viruses more cost-effectively than current non-biodegradable, toxic, and fossil fuel-based coatings in use. The new coatings will contribute to mitigating the spread of infections (including COVID-19) and creating a healthier and more resilient society, while ensuring consistent product efficiency and market-demanded sustainability. RELIANCE project aims to design and develop smart response self-disinfectant antimicrobial nanocoatings based on a new range of smart antimicrobial nanoparticles. These nanoparticles will consist of mesoporous silica nanoparticles with metallic copper in their structure, modified with biobased bioactive compounds: Antimicrobial peptides (AMP’s) based on protein containing waste streams, and essential oils (EOs) coming from non-edible plants. The antibacterial action of these additives will be adjusted to the specific application, according to the dosages and durability requirements. Two alternatives to incorporate the bioactive compounds will be considered:

  • The incorporation of the biobased EO into the porous substrate, to allow a controlled release (T or pH) of the bioactive compounds to the environment,
  • The attachment of the AMP to the nanoparticles surface, to allow a long-term action of the bioactive compound to the environment.

RELIANCE project combines contact killing and leachable antibacterial actions ascribed to the additive with the non-sticking action due to the coatings’ formulation, thus providing an integral holistic solution to antimicrobial problems on different surfaces. The nature of the coatings, their characteristics (hydrophobicity and surface roughness) and their application methods (direct deposition by cold-atmospheric plasma, high throughput spraying or selective digital printing) will be specifically designed to allow not only the microbial repelling action, but also the adhesion of the coatings to different substrates commonly found in our living environments, such as metals, plastics or textiles, and to maximize their durability (in terms of performance and antibacterial properties). RELIANCE will go beyond the present-day possibilities of conventional chemicals by considering sustainability and eco design criteria in the selection of the bioactive components, and in the development of the nanocoatings.



Main innovations

Majority of pathogenic microorganisms can survive for months even on dry surfaces, contributing to the transmission of a wide range of infections.

It is estimated that only antimicrobial resistance infections are responsible for 110,000 deaths and EUR 1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and productivity losses.

Several antimicrobial coatings exist in the market, based mainly on the leaching of non-environmentally friendly chemicals, such as antibiotics, phenolic biocides, or quaternary ammonium compounds. Additionally, they are formulated considering synthetic, non-biobased polymers as binders.

Therefore, they frequently show serious concerns linked to antibiotic resistance, complex chemical synthesis, environmental pollution, non-biodegradability, low product performance, toxicity and extremely low sustainability.

Here is how RELIANCE will meet the need of innovative high performance antimicrobial coatings, representing also a significant market opportunity as in 2019 the antimicrobial coatings market size exceeded USD 3.2 billion and it is estimated to grow at over 10.4% CAGR between 2020 and 2026.

The solution RELIANCE proposes is the development of an entirely new class of biocidal additive, smart Cu-SMIN nanoparticles combined with synergistic, non-toxic bioactives, and employs these in the development of highly durable sustainable nanocoatings. The chemistry and physics of these nanocoating will be designed to maximize their sustainability (water based, fluorine free formulations) and microbial repellency (nanostructuring).

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