2020 will be a very good year for Resysten. This Hungarian startup sells only one product – the protective coating. It has been gaining customers for 6 years. Last year it covered 30,000 m2 with its coating. This year it took 1.5 months to cover 30,000 m2, and the company expects its revenues to be three or maybe even four times higher this year.
Why is it that when economies stop and everyone talks about the crisis, a small Hungarian start-up is able to increase its revenues four times? The answer is simple – the coating invented by Resysten kills coronavirus. It also kills other viruses, as well as bacteria and fungi and prevents them from multiplying on it. It can be applied to any surface, whether metal, fabric or wood, and retains its protective properties for a year. The coating is harmless to the environment and people, and you only need light to make it work.
Photocatalytic coating kills coronavirus
“Our coating contains some metal oxides, mainly titanium-dioxides. When light reaches the surface, titanium dioxide works like a catalyst of some processes that take place in the thin layer of the air surrounding the surface. Then free radicals generated, that results in the formation of hydrogen peroxide, are produced on the surface and what surrounds it, this very thin layer, becomes unlivable for microorganisms. Simply speaking, free oxides destroy the bacteria and other microbes, so they can’t live on the surface anymore” explains Peter Lehoczky, Resysten CEO.
Originally the coating was to be used mainly in health care and transport, but the coronavirus pandemic showed new places where it can be used. “Generally speaking, before the coronavirus we worked on lots of projects in public transport. Since COVID-19, interest has been coming from other sectors, like offices and open spaces. We have projects in offices, including for Hungarian Telecom, in shops and in court houses, pretty much everywhere” – says Peter Lehoczky.
The antiviral material saved the Polish company Sanwil. Sanwil produces coated materials. Its products are used to make furniture – from soft sofas to dental chairs, car seats, shoes, and even specialist clothing, e.g. for firefighters. But as countries closed their economies one by one, orders dropped almost to zero. “If we did not manage to enter the market with Sanmed, it would be bad” says Witold Śliwa, export and automotive director.
Anti-virus safety suits
The company invented Sanmed several years ago. The material is made of polyester knitted fabrics and polyurethane outer layer. Polyester layer gives mechanical strength to rips, tears and punctures and allows sewing and welding the material. Polyurethane provides barrier properties. No virus or bacteria can penetrate the specially designed pores. Additionally, some versions of Sanmed have been enriched with silver zeolite, which kills the microorganisms that touched it. “The material is very thin, soft, flexible. It is waterproof and breathable. It is easy to clean, can be disinfected and washed in 95 degrees, and does not lose its properties after washing. We have a certificate from the Belgian Centexbel Institute that our material has obtained the highest, 6th class of resistance to viruses” explains Śliwa.
Sanmed was used to sew hospital mattress covers. But this year the furniture companies stopped. However, customers started to look for textiles for protective clothing. The company started to sell antiviral Sanmed as a material for safety suits. It sent first few textil batches for free to suit manufacturers. Customers quickly started to line up. – Now 80% of our production is Sanmed. Every week there are new customers who order bigger and bigger batches. Although for the time being 4 out of 5 industries that we serve are still not working, thanks to Sanmed’s production we realize the budget according to the plan” says Witold Śliwa.
In whole Europe more examples such as Resysten or Sanwil can be found. Since the coronavirus pandemic has started, both clients, business and scientists have become more and more interested in antiviral products. In the first place there is, obviously, anti-virus personal protective equipment, mainly masks, neck glitters, scarfs. “We have seen a huge increase in demand for protective equipment. For comparison, we sold about 700,000 masks for the whole year 2019. And this January, in just four days, we saw demand for 8.5 million pieces” says Jana Zimová, from Respilon, a Czech manufacturer of nanofibres products with copper oxide. But scientists and companies are also working on developing antivirus versions of ordinary products that originally are not protective. For example, researchers from the Technical University in Szczecin (Poland), who developed antibacterial paint for painting walls, are now working to modify the composition so that the paints also have an antiviral effect. Albini Group, an Italian shirt fabric manufacturer, recently introduced Viroformula, a new type of fabric with silver compounds that protects against viruses and bacteria.
Science benefits from coronavirus
Side-effect of the coronavirus is a boom in nanotechnology. Nanotechnology consists, in great simplification, in modifying materials at the level of individual atoms and molecules. It is such techniques that make it possible to add compounds of copper, silver, titanium or other elements to different materials and thus give final products anti-virus properties. “Pandemic was bad for economy but it was a huge promotion nanotechnology” says Jiří Kůs, the chairman of Czech Nanotechnology Industries Association. “Before the Covid I had many, many meetings with investors and it was very difficult to convinced them to be interested in nanotechnology. In March , when the boom for nanofibres mask has started, investors started to call me and ask if I can tell them more about nano project and companies which they can invest in” he says.
As Jiří Kůs estimates since the beginning of pandemic only in Czech Republic the production of nanofibres tripled. What will be when the pandemic is over? Jiří Kůs is hopeful, future belongs to advanced materials, he says. Companies share this optimism. “Since people are sensible and understand the importance of touching things, we are sure that we’re going back to where we started” says Peter Lehoczky