WTAMU Professor

Oct. 30, 2017

CONTACT:    Dr. Emily Hunt, 806-651-5330, ehunt@wtamu.edu   

COPY BY:     Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, rmcdonald@wtamu.edu

WTAMU Professor’s Patented Powder Stops Growth of Bacteria


CANYON, Texas—An innovative powder developed by Dr. Emily Hunt at West Texas A&M University has been granted patent No. 9,512,324 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and its powerful properties are now being commercialized to help fight bacteria in everything from homes to industrial settings.

In 2010, Hunt, professor and dean of the WTAMU School of Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics, was the recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, part of the Buffalo Technology GroupDepartment of Defense and the U.S. Strategic Command. The award allowed Hunt to pursue her research on creating energetic materials for use against weapons of mass destruction. That research provided the foundation for the development of the patented powder, which effectively neutralizes a range of harmful microorganisms. The powder, a mixture of different metals and metal oxides, is an additive that when mixed with paints, epoxies, coatings and sprays creates a protective material that stops all strains of bacteria—everything from E.coli to Staphylococcus aureus. Coatings containing the additive can be applied to a variety of surfaces, and tests show that the patented material kills 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria.

“We’ve found that it will resist microbes for as long as the paint stays on the surface to which it is applied,” Hunt said. “We can adjust the amount of the powder based on how fast we want to mitigate the bacteria or how long we want it to last. Usually the paint needs to be replaced before the powder does.”

The possibilities for the powder additive are endless, and the technology is being commercialized through Buffalo Technology Group. Hunt and her team—Benton Allen, Trent Kelly and Paige Earl—are busy in their Killgore Research Center lab at WTAMU testing and developing a variety of applications for commercial use. Paint-Guard, a liquid additive that can be stirred into any brand of household paint, will be available on Amazon and at locally owned businesses in Amarillo and Canyon by the end of the year. Other items that will soon follow include Grout-Guard and Pool-Guard.

“These are micron-sized particles that can be incorporated in a variety of materials and coatings, primarily paint, epoxy coatings and thermally-applied coatings, that can be used to protect infrastructure from mold and other microorganisms,” Allen said.

The three team members started working on Hunt’s research as undergraduate students in engineering. They are now part of Buffalo Technology Group and are enjoying the unique experience of seeing their work go from the lab to store shelves. The team has spent the better part of two years working on the commercialization process of the product, and their first big sale is with RMB Products in Denver, Colo.

“The company applies a very thick plastic lining to offshore oil rigs,” Earl said. “One of Shell’s offshore rigs has a pipeline that goes really deep into the ocean, and produced water from the rig is returned to the sea through that pipeline. But when no water is being pumped out, the pipe is susceptible to various types of microbiological growth and biofilm generation inside the pipe. RMB added our Paint-Guard to its plastic in a stretch of that pipeline to prevent biofilm from developing.”

Other applications include hospitals, daycares and even NAVAIR to prevent damage to its fleet of aircraft.

“They are wanting to coat different parts of their aircraft with our product,” Kelly said. “Issues arise when aircraft travel to hostile environments—places with really harmful bacteria that can get inside the many crevices of the plane. The microorganisms can propagate and damage the structure of the aircraft. Additionally, these microorganisms can pose a health risk upon return to the United States. Our technology fits well in this application within the aircraft to limit various types of bacteria and mold growth.”

Paint-Guard, Grout-Guard and Pool-Guard mark the beginning of a full line of products being developed by Buffalo Technology Group to fight mold, mildew and bacteria growth. From the lab to the store shelf, Hunt and her team are busy making the world a safer place for everyone.




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