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Door Handles Made to Combat Germs

Monday, June 1, 2015

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PITTSBURGH—Some of the germiest surfaces in a building may be getting new protection from a novel coating that can knock out bacteria.

Two student scientists from Hong Kong have developed a new door handle that can self-sanitize with the help of UV light powered by opening and closing the door.

The research comes from Sum Ming “Simon” Wong, 17, and Kin Pong “Michael” Li, 18, classmates at the Church of Christ in China Tam Lee Lai Fun Memorial Secondary School in Tuen Mun.

Door handle
Images: Laura Buitrago / Society for Science 

Tenth grader Sum Ming “Simon” Wong (left), 17, and Kin Pong “Michael” Li, 18, showcased their glowing handle May 12 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair  in Pittsburgh.

The pair recently showcased their handle at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, hosted by the Society for Science and the Public, in Pittsburgh.

The society announced the development Wednesday (May 27).

Tackling Germs

Door handles are some of the most germ-ridden surfaces on buildings. Bacteria and virus living on these surfaces transfer diseases, according to Wong.

Wong and Li wanted to design a coating for handles that would stamp out germs and help reduce disease transmission.

Their coating is based on titanium dioxide, a mineral widely used in paints and coatings for hiding, brightening and whitening. The compound is also found in food, cosmetics and other products.

When lit by ultraviolet light, Wong says TiO2 kills bacteria.

How it Works

However, indoor handles and those used at night are not exposed to such light. Thus, the students decided to light the door handle from within, allowing every part of the handle to experience the light and self-clean.

door handle

The door handle is coated with titanium dioxide, which kills bacteria when exposed to UV light, according to the student scientists.

The components of the coated handle include a long cylinder of clear glass fit tightly into a bracket. Inside one end of the bracket is a strong light emitting diode (LED). The students also fashioned a small gear box that attaches to the door.

The UV light is powered by the opening and closing of the door, the students explain.  

The door handle system would cost about $13 to build, the students have estimated.

International Science Fair

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition.

Approximately 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries attend the fair and compete for $4 million in prizes.

Wong and Li were not the only students interested in curbing disease transmission through independent research. The fair’s first-place prize went to Raymond Wang, 17, of Canada, who engineered a new air inlet system for airplane cabins to improve air quality and knock out diseases.

Wang received $75,000 for the development.

In second place, Nicole Ticea, 16, of Canada, received a $50,000 award for developing an inexpensive, easy-to-use, disposable testing device to combat the high rate of undiagnosed HIV infection in low-income communities. 


Tagged categories: Antimicrobial coatings; Building owners; China; Coating chemistry; Coatings Technology; Coatings Technology; North America; Pigments; Raw materials; Research; Self-cleaning coatings; Titanium dioxide

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