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Antimicrobial materials have attracted significant interest in recent years due to the growing understanding of their potential for improvement in sanitation and personal protection and reducing disease transmission in modern society. Polymer technology leader Ascend Performance Materials has introduced its groundbreaking polymer-based antimicrobial technology, Acteev Protect™, which uses active zinc ions to prevent fungal and microbial growth in clothing, protective equipment and filtration devices.
The vast majority of modern consumer fabric products contain natural or synthetic fiber blends, such as cotton, wool, polyester, nylon, or elastane, which are naturally susceptible to bacterial and fungal growth.
Clothing, upholstery, and textiles affected by microorganisms can deteriorate and discolor, or develop a bad smell. This limits the product’s durability, aesthetics, and lifetime value. Washing alone is not always effective at eliminating the microorganisms and removing odor build-up.
More importantly, antimicrobial properties are highly desired for protective apparel, face masks, air filtering equipment and other products used to fight pathogenic organisms in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.
As a consequence, manufacturers are now focusing on the development of fabric products with built-in antimicrobial protection.
Metal-Based Antimicrobial Agents Suitable for Industrial Processing
Metals, such as copper, silver, and zinc can be extremely toxic to microorganisms even at very low concentrations. Because of their biocidal activity, metals are used as antimicrobial agents in a multitude of applications related to the healthcare, agricultural, and pharmaceutical industries.
Unlike other antimicrobial agents, metals are stable under a wide range of environmental and processing conditions, making them suitable for use in most industrial manufacturing processes.
Antimicrobial metal-based agents are usually applied to the final products either as additives or coatings in the shape of solid particles or as absorbed metal ions in different carriers (such as salts).
Advanced Polymer Technology for Antimicrobial Protection
The innovative Acteev Protect™ polymer-based antimicrobial technology, developed by Ascend Performance Materials, relies on a novel approach that allows the creation of a polymer/metal nanocomposite material by incorporating zinc ions directly into the polymer matrix during the polymerization process.
Ascend Performance Materials is a global supplier of high-quality plastics, fibers, and specialty chemicals for a wide range of consumer and industrial applications, including textile and packaging products, components for the automotive, electrical and electronics industries, and chemical compounds for the agrochemical and petrochemical industries.
Central to Ascend's product portfolio is a wide range of polyamide 66 (also known as Nylon 66) resins, fibers and fabrics. With five fully integrated manufacturing facilities in the USA and 2,500 employed staff globally, the company is the world's largest integrated producer of polyamide 66 products.
Calling on the company's proprietary polymer technologies and expertise in the production of polyamide 66, Ascend's team of scientists and engineers started the development of the Acteev Protect™ technology in 2016, by combining the antimicrobial properties of active zinc ions with the softness, versatility, and durability of Ascend's polyamide fabrics and fibers. This helped to deliver unparalleled performance and antimicrobial efficacy.
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Zinc Ions Can Stop Bacterial and Fungal Growth and Deactivate Viruses
Previous research has shown that divalent zinc ions can disrupt bacterial metabolic pathways and can cause damage to the bacterial membrane, hindering bacterial growth.
A research team at Leiden University in the Netherlands has recently established that divalent zinc ions can also inhibit the replication of several types of viruses, including SARS-coronavirus (SARS-CoV).
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Versatile and Durable Fabrics with Unparalleled Antimicrobial Properties
Ascend’s senior vice president of technology, Dr. Vikram Gopal, explains that by embedding active zinc ions into the polymer matrix, his R&D team was able to create polymer-based antimicrobial material with long-lasting microbial inhibition that does not wash away, unlike other silver-based antimicrobial agents. Silver is typically used as a topical finish or a coating applied to the final product, which is a water-intensive process where the excess silver is washed off and eventually disposed into the aquatic environment.
Due to the hydrophilic properties of the polyamide fibers, they can retain some moisture in their microenvironment, allowing embedded zinc ions to be activated and diffuse out of the polymer matrix to attack any bacterial or fungal growth in the fabric.
At the same time, clothing, activewear and protective apparel made with Acteev Protect™ retain their antimicrobial properties after 50 washes or more while remaining odor-free and comfortable throughout the garment’s lifetime.
Acteev Protect™ antimicrobial materials feature all the benefits of premium polyamide 66 fabrics, which are softer and offer more comfort than other types of nylon or polypropylene fabrics. Polyamide textile products better resist abrasion, do not shed microfibers, and can be dyed or printed on in bright colors.
Besides the woven and knit Acteev Protect™ fabrics suitable for clothing and upholstery applications, Ascend Performance Materials offers a wide range of nano- and micro-fiber nonwoven (melt-blown) fabrics with fiber diameters of 0.4-0.6 microns and 2-8 microns, respectively. The fabrics are suitable for air filtration applications with built-in antimicrobial protection. They offer better filtration efficiency with a lower pressure drop than traditional polypropylene melt-blown nonwovens materials.
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Responding to a Global Crisis
The unique features of Ascend's polymer-based antimicrobial technology, covered by more than 15 patent families, make it particularly suitable for single-use and reusable face masks, filters, and protective apparel that retains its efficacy if exposed to water or alcohol.
To meet the increased global demand for efficient and durable personal protective equipment for antimicrobial protection, Ascend Performance Materials partnered with independent testing laboratories for the certification of their products. At the same time, the company optimized supply chains and reallocated resources to scale up Acteev Protect production.
According to Dr. Gopal, rigorous independent testing protocols compliant with ISO and ASTM standards demonstrated that Acteev™ technology deactivates SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, and other pathogens, including H1N1, betacoronavirus OC43, human coronavirus 229E. It also inhibits the growth of a range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumonia, and Escherichia coli.
Polymer-Based Antimicrobial Technology for Medical Applications
The test results allowed Ascend Performance Materials to submit a premarket notification to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for clearance to market the Acteev™ antimicrobial technology in the United States in a medical device - a surgical mask branded Acteev Biodefend™.
As well as the development of polyamide 66 fabrics for medical applications, in the coming months, the company intends to extend its antimicrobial polymer technology by introducing engineered plastics for high-touch surfaces and biomedical products with antimicrobial protection.
DISCLAIMER: Acteev™ technology has been shown in laboratory tests to destroy SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and other pathogens, including H1N1, coronavirus 229E and Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria such as staphylococcus and E. coli. All data presented on this page comes from testing performed by independent third-party laboratories following the protocols of ISO, ASTM, or other international standards organizations. Not all claims are permitted in all jurisdictions, including in the United States. Some device designs currently under review with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — submission number K201714. Ascend has more than 15 patent families pending on Acteev™ technology.
References and Further Reading
Ascend Performance Materials (2020) Surgical mask in development with Acteev™ technology shows efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 plus Level III filtration properties [Online] www.ascendmaterials.com Available at: https://www.ascendmaterials.com/news/surgical-mask-in-development-with-acteev-technology-shows-efficacy-against-sars-cov-2-plus-level-iii-filtration-properties (Accessed on 26 July 2020).
Ascend Performance Materials (2020) Acteev Protect™ antimicrobial technology. [Online] www.ascendmaterials.com Available at: https://www.ascendmaterials.com/innovations/acteev-technology/acteev-protect-antimicrobial-technology/ (Accessed on 26 July 2020).
SpecialChem (2020) Ascend Submits Polymer-based Antimicrobial Technology for FDA Approval. [Online] Available at: https://omnexus.specialchem.com/news/industry-news/ascend-submits-antimicrobial-material-fda-000222037?lr=iom20071949 (Accessed on 26 July 2020).
U. Kadiyala et al., (2018) Unexpected insights into antibacterial activity of zinc oxide nanoparticles against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Nanoscale 10, 4927-4939. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/C7NR08499D
M. Lazarczyk, M. Favre, (2008) Role of Zn2+ Ions in Host-Virus Interactions. Journal of Virology 82, 11486-11494. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01314-08
J. Pasquet et al., (2014) The contribution of zinc ions to the antimicrobial activity of zinc oxide. Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochem. Eng. Aspects 457, 263-274. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.colsurfa.2014.05.057
Business Wire (2020) Surgical Mask in Development With Acteev™ Technology Shows Efficacy Against SARS-CoV-2 Plus Level III Filtration Properties. [Online] www.businesswire.com Available at: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200713005131/en/Surgical-Mask-Development-Acteev%E2%84%A2-Technology-Shows-Efficacy (Accessed on 26 July 2020).
D. S. Morais et al., (2016) Antimicrobial Approaches for Textiles: From Research to Market. Materials 9, 498. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/ma9060498
A. J. W. te Velthuis et al., (2010) Zn2+ Inhibits Coronavirus and Arterivirus RNA Polymerase Activity In Vitro and Zinc Ionophores Block the Replication of These Viruses in Cell Culture. PLoS Pathogens 6, e1001176. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1001176