An award winning anti-microbial product that covers glass with a protective coating is ready for distribution after third-party verification. The product recently won an award at the Britsh Glass Focus awards where judges said it could help save lives. George Lewis spoke to Neil McSporran* about this timely development.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic we have become all too aware of the dangers of how a deadly virus can spread among the population.

We have all seen or heard the messages about how easy it is for microorganisms to transmit via the process of touching a contaminated surface.

Now NSG Pilkington has unveiled an anti-microbial product which prevents viruses from spreading on surfaces. The flat glass manufacturer had been working on SaniTise, an anti-bacterial coating for three years, but swiftly intensified its efforts when the Covid-19 pandemic began to rapidly spread early last year.

Experts at the company’s European Technical Centre in Lathom, Lancashire, UK initially investigated bacteria, but work was accelerated into focusing on building envelope viruses and how a coating could help reduce the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

The coating is now ready for installation all over the world. The protection is produced by a pyrolytic technology that once active, will not reduce in activity during the lifetime of the glass, as long as the glass is well maintained.

SaniTise received third party verification in October and by November had already received recognition from the glass industry when it won the Design of the year – Flat award at the British Glass Focus ceremony.

Judges of the awards said the product was ‘exactly of its time’.

Head judge Dr Nick Kirk commented: “What we liked about this product is the active coating that required UV light to activate it.

“In the current climate, where we are trying to fight viruses, this really does have a place in the modern life we live. All the judges felt this was a fantastic product that will help save lives and make life better for all of us.”

What is SaniTise?

SaniTise is a transparent coated glass that’s activated through ultraviolet (UV) radiation which then facilitates a reaction with the moisture in the air. The thin coating is put onto the glass when being manufactured and doesn’t affect is recyclability when the glass reaches its end of life.

When the glass is exposed to UV light, its antimicrobial activity is significantly increased compared to using uncoated glass.

The pyrolytic coating provides antimicrobial properties and acts against enveloped viruses on the glass’ surface.

The coated glass provides extra protection for any high-touch surfaces exposed to UV light.

The end result means that oxygen species are placed on the envelope, which provides a more hygienic surface.

Neil McSporran, the Global Portfolio Director at NSG Pilkington’s Incubator programme said a number of materials were looked at to help viruses become ‘deactivated’, but Pilkington’s R&D team eventually chose titanium dioxide, as it gave the most successful result in the fastest time and was the material that could be taken to market the quickest.

Mr McSporran (right) worked for NSG Pilkington for 14 years, seven of those in a product/business development role in the USA before moving back to the UK to head up the Incubator programme, which is the hub of NSG Pilkington’s new product development.

He explained that ‘the coating itself is inert, it is the oxygen ‘species’ that help protect against organic materials’.

The protection is not instantaneous - like bleach for example - but once activated, unlike bleach it does provide a continuous protection to the material the coating is on.

NSG Pilkington wants SaniTise to be completely compatible with bleach and other products used to clean glass in order to ‘contribute to a risk reduction strategy’ for parts of a building more likely to contain viruses or antimicrobial substances.

The coating can be effective within 15 minutes, but this is dependent on the ‘species’ on the material and the conditions where the building envelope is.

The coating is best suited for building façades in the commercial, healthcare, education, retail & hospitality sectors, used on the insulating glass unit’s (IGU) interior surface on any exterior wall system.

It’s also designed for use in all types of public transport such as buses, trains and passenger boats.

Having received third party verification in October, Mr McSporran says that SaniTise is now ready for installation, and has received strong interest from different sectors. When asked where SaniTise was likely to be seen first, Mr McSporran said:

“We need to look at areas with many ‘touch points’, places where people touch regularly on a daily basis.

“The best areas (to put SaniTise) is where the public mingles such as medical waiting rooms, bus stops, stations, airports, shopping centres, schools, glass doors or cash machines.”

Despite being a photo catalyst that needs UV energy, which is then absorbed by the coating on a building envelope, SaniTise can work with diffused sunlight, on cloudy days for example, which means NSG Pilkington can promote the product all around the world, not just in those places with lots of direct sunlight.

It also still protects for at least a couple of hours in the dark due to the protection being built up during daytime and is called a battery effect.

The future

Mr McSporran explained there are a number of developments within the Incubator programme to increase the protective products like SaniTise.

He said: “Looking towards the future, we will have a strong look at health and looking more into microbial areas of development.”

He added: “It was a real honour just to have been nominated for the Glass Focus award as it’s a very new product to the market. It has given the team working on SaniTise a real boost to have received such recognition.”

He added: “What’s been great is it has been a real team effort both in the UK and across the world.”

*Global Portfolio Director

NSG Pilkington, Lathom, Lancashire, UK;