There are 1,500 bacteria living on each square centimeter of a hand. Every material and surface a hand touches holds the same amount of bacteria, if not more.
Michael Holbert ’05 said this fact inspired him to apply antimicrobial properties to several materials. He has become the first person licensed in the U.S. by XTIO2 Inc., a company that develops nanotechnology and globally distributes advanced photocatalyst coatings, to use the XTI – 360 Active Shield. This is a transparent, surface coating using nanotechnology called a nanocoating applied to surfaces to reduce the amount of bacteria. The product, which has a 99 percent anti-germ efficacy rate, can be applied to all surfaces such as ceramics, fabrics and plastics, except for leather and silk. Holbert is the president of Cleancoating, a company based in Philadelphia that offers the nanocoating service.
Staff Writer Candace King spoke to Holbert to discuss his next step in launch of his new business.
Candace King: What are some of the benefits of the nanocoating?
Michael Holbert: It’s green and safe because it’s nontoxic, and it does not have a binder like silicon. It consists of 99 percent ultra-pure water and only 1 percent titanium dioxide nano particles. It’s also green in a sense that a little bit of solution goes a long way because of the nanotechnology. It can use roughly 32 ounces of liquid solution to cover 1,600 square feet of surface space.
CK: How does the nanocoating work?
MH: In the late ’60s, scientists discovered the antimicrobial properties of titanium dioxide, and by nature it is a photocatalyst so its high anti-germ efficacy comes from regeneration by UV light. With that regeneration, you’re also protecting the surfaces, which are coated with XTI Active-Shield. The coating is virtually clear, causes no harm to surfaces and is not visible to the naked eye, but it’s there, and it does its job effectively.
CK: What demographic is the product aimed toward?
MH: This product is designed for the people to keep them healthy. It is a green nanocoating for the people. The applications are everywhere and endless. They’re good mainly in places with high populations and high public traffic, hotels, public transportation, airplanes, subways, buses, office buildings, courtrooms, elevators, banks and on ATM buttons.
CK: How will the surface application of the nanocoating combat the spread of germs?
MH: With the constant increase in population, super germs are becoming more powerful and the death rate increases when people vulnerable to these germs get them into their respiratory system. The most vulnerable people are the young and the elderly who have weakened immune systems, so other application areas which are great for this product are daycare facilities, urgent care facilities, hospitals, and retirement communities. We all know how daycares are havens for germs — children are constantly touching one another and breathing in each others’ germs, then taking them home to mom and dad, making them sick. If my product and service are applied in a daycare setting, every surface which is coated with XTI Active-Shield that a child touches, his or her germs would be burned on contact, and the next child that touches that surface will be safe and not contract them.
CK: How has your time at the college influenced your business and product plans?
MH: Everyone in the university and the town itself are progressive thinkers. There are many visionaries, and there are many people who view the world as a place where technology and innovation are the key to our future and key to a better future for our children. Ithaca was a great arm in forming and furthering my moral and ethical viewpoints and hope for a better, more sustainable world for all.
CK: Do you have any plans in pitching it to other industries?
MH: Absolutely, I launched this product officially in Philadelphia in January. I’ve been training with the company for approximately 2 years now, and I basically have to invent a market for the product. So, it’s exciting and a challenge at the same time. I have to educate individuals from all walks of life about the technology. To do this, I have been meeting with the universities in Philadelphia, going to trade shows, joining local chambers of commerce and hotel associations. I have meetings in the works with local hospitals. My sales team is targeting hotels in the Mid-Atlantic region, retirement communities and fitness centers.
CK: Do you have any long-term goals?
MH: I want this product to go nationwide. I want it to be able to keep people healthier and improve the lives of people with weakened immune systems. I also want to work with the food and agriculture sector where livestock can be infected by diseases like E.Coli or deadly flu viruses like H5N1. My company’s services have the capability to alleviate those risks and ensure animal safety at the same time.