Antimicrobial innovation scoops major award

A project to develop more hygienic, lightweight grab poles for public transport has scooped a major industry award and could help pave the way to safer and more sustainable mass transport systems.

The collaborative project, which is based on the innovative manufacturing processes of Derby-based Composite Braiding Ltd, won the ‘Innovation in Composite Materials’ category at the Composites UK Awards 2021 last night. Composite Braiding teamed up with five other partners to develop composite grab poles that kill 99.9% of bacteria found on their surface and which are 70% lighter than traditional steel grab poles.

Managing Director of Composite Braiding, Steve Barbour, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to win this prestigious award! Grab poles are high-touch items in public transport and so play a role in the transmission of infections. Our antimicrobial design will help to protect the people who use them from dangerous bacterial infections such as E.coli and MRSA. At the same time, because they are lightweight, they will help to reduce emissions in petrol and diesel vehicles or increase the performance of electric vehicles. So it’s a win-win for people and the planet!”

The process used to manufacture the poles represents a step forward in composites, because it consumed 98% less energy and created 97% less waste than traditional composite manufacturing methods. It’s also highly automated, enabling the parts to be produced at high volume (100,000+ per year) and at costs that are comparable with mild steel grab poles.

The project team now plan to take this product to market and already have interest from several public transport operators. There has also been interest from other sectors — such as marine, medical and construction — about the potential to use this technology to create other antimicrobial parts.

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