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A demonstration of the antimicrobial effectiveness of various copper surfaces

Victor K Champagne1 and Dennis J Helfritch2*

Author Affiliations

1 U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, USA

2 Dynamic Science, Aberdeen, MD, USA

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Journal of Biological Engineering 2013, 7:8  doi:10.1186/1754-1611-7-8

Published: 27 March 2013



Bacterial contamination on touch surfaces results in increased risk of infection. In the last few decades, work has been done on the antimicrobial properties of copper and its alloys against a range of micro-organisms threatening public health in food processing, healthcare and air conditioning applications; however, an optimum copper method of surface deposition and mass structure has not been identified.


A proof-of-concept study of the disinfection effectiveness of three copper surfaces was performed. The surfaces were produced by the deposition of copper using three methods of thermal spray, namely, plasma spray, wire arc spray and cold spray The surfaces were then inoculated with meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). After a two hour exposure to the surfaces, the surviving MRSA were assayed and the results compared.

The differences in the copper depositions produced by the three thermal spray methods were examined in order to explain the mechanism that causes the observed differences in MRSA killing efficiencies. The cold spray deposition method was significantly more effective than the other methods. It was determined that work hardening caused by the high velocity particle impacts created by the cold spray technique results in a copper microstructure that enhances ionic diffusion, and copper ions are principally responsible for antimicrobial activity.


This test showed significant microbiologic differences between coatings produced by different spray techniques and demonstrates the importance of the copper application technique. The cold spray technique shows superior anti-microbial effectiveness caused by the high impact velocity imparted to the sprayed particles which results in high dislocation density and high ionic diffusivity.