Grasping the Potential: Emerging market for smart antimicrobials

Covid-19’s impact on both consumers and the worldwide economy has been far reaching and is reshaping the market for antimicrobial coatings. In the past, the biggest drivers for smart anti-microbials have been healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Covid-19 has broadened the demand and also given prominence to the role of “smart coatings,” meaning the ones with the greatest functionality. 

A door handle with stylised bacteria
The ideal material or coating should be activated under artificial light conditions to impact indoor areas Image source: denisismagilov - (symbol image).

Industry analyst firm N-tech Research recently published  a report titled, Smart Antibacterial and Antiviral Markets, 2020. In the study the firm projects that the market for smart antibacterial and antiviral products will reach EUR 1.1 billion by 2025. This number includes both smart coatings and smart surfaces. Smart surfaces include products factory coated with antimicrobials and surfaces with nanotexturing that provides them with an antibacterial functionality.

Current  and Future Products

The materials that are explicitly covered in the report are nanosilver, copper, hydrogels, chitosan, silanes, sulfates, graphene and carbon nanotubes, AMPS, liquid metals, among many others. It also examines the role of biomaterials and biotechnology in shaping markets for smart antimicrobials/smart viricides. The end-user segments covered in the report comprise both medical industry markets along with industrial residential markets.

Established smart materials – self-cleaning and self-healing coatings and surfaces – are already important in providing anti-microbial functionality. For example, Affix Labs and others have introduced an antiviral coating with self-cleaning technology, based on silane quaternary ammonium. Polymeric biocides are distinctly smart – they embody antimicrobial characteristics with self-healing ability. DSM Biomedical, offers an anti-microbial coating that self-assembles and is based on hydrophilic technology. Hydrogels, another smart material,  are sometimes claimed to have considerable promise because they can incorporate and/or release antimicrobial agents

In the future, N-tech expects a flood of material innovations in order to stop the spread of bacteria and especially viruses. Novel materials including antimicrobial peptide coatings, organosilane nanocoatings and liquid metals are forecast in the N-tech report to reach EUR 196.3 millions for antibacterial use.

Repurposing and Rebranding

By 2025, smart antiviral coatings are expected to generate EUR 294 millions in revenue, with much of this revenues coming from pre-existing products that have been re-purposed for the age of Covid-19. Rebranding or re-purposing existing products enables suppliers to quickly move into the rapidly growing market for antivirals. An example, of this strategy is provided by Airdal with a brand of antimicrobial coating that it has remarketed as an antiviral. We also note that Airdal’s product is “powered” by Liquid Guard an established antimicrobial coating.

In the past, consumers have been reluctant to buy smart antimicrobial products because of their high price and short life. Today this has changed as smart antimicrobials are justified on the basis of health, economic and societal requirements.  A major focus of antimicrobial R&D is to make them more cost effective and give them longer lifetimes.

A more detailed version of this analysis of the smart antimicrobials market can be found in European Coatings Journal 11/2021. The issue is available digitally at our online library 360°.

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