Anti-microbial grab poles

Aims

We worked with six partners on an Innovation UK funded project, which set out to produce a lightweight, permanently antimicrobial grab pole for use in public transport. Our partners included an innovative rail vehicle designer and manufacturer; two antimicrobial materials developers and suppliers; WMG, The University of Warwick; and the Health and Safety Executive.  

The project was designed to address two key limitations of traditional steel grab poles: 

  1. Their heavy weight, which either limits the payload/range of electric vehicles or increases emissions in petrol/diesel vehicles 
  2. Their perception as unhygienic — a concern exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Coatings such as antimicrobial paint can be applied, but this increases the weight and cost, and the antimicrobial effect can rapidly wear off. 

Therefore, our aims were to develop a solution that could: 

  • integrate antimicrobial properties into the material of the pole 
  • ensure the antimicrobial properties didn’t deteriorate over time 
  • significantly reduce part weight
  • be cost-competitive with mild steel poles
  • be manufactured in high volume.

Outcomes

When tested against the ISO standard 22196 (which measures antibacterial activity), our grab poles killed 99.9% of bacteria found on the surface. This means they will help to protect the people who use them from dangerous bacterial infections such as E.coli and MRSA.

Our grab poles also performed extremely well in heat aging and wear tests, showing no deterioration in their antibacterial properties.

The grab poles are also:

  • 70% lighter than mild steel poles, yet offer the same mechanical performance. This will increase the payload/range of electric vehicles or reduce emissions in petrol/diesel vehicles
  • Sustainable — 99% less energy was used and 97% less waste created than in traditional composite manufacturing. The poles can also be reshaped and reused at the end of their life
  • Scalable and affordable — They can be produced at high volume (100,000+ per year) and at costs that are comparable with mild steel grab poles.

Outcomes

When tested against the ISO standard 22196 (which measures antibacterial activity), our grab poles killed 99.9% of bacteria found on the surface. This means they will help to protect the people who use them from dangerous bacterial infections such as E.coli and MRSA.

Our grab poles also performed extremely well in heat aging and wear tests, showing no deterioration in their antibacterial properties.

The grab poles are also:

  • 70% lighter than mild steel poles, yet offer the same mechanical performance. This will increase the payload/range of electric vehicles or reduce emissions in petrol/diesel vehicles
  • Sustainable — 99% less energy was used and 97% less waste created than in traditional composite manufacturing. The poles can also be reshaped and reused at the end of their life
  • Scalable and affordable — They can be produced at high volume (100,000+ per year) and at costs that are comparable with mild steel grab poles.
"Coventry City Council is very excited in the potential of the technology developed under this project. These grab poles will be first demonstrated in our forthcoming light rail demonstrator vehicle, planned for use in the city of Coventry."
Nicola Small, Very Light Rail Programme Manager
Coventry City Council

Other applications

Our braided antimicrobial composite materials can be produced in almost any shape, cross-section and format. We can manufacture other high-touch items for public transport, such as luggage racks and stacks, seat components, and many other structural items. Beyond public transport, there is also enormous potential. We already have interest from the marine, medical and construction sectors, and antimicrobial parts would also be valuable in settings such as education, hospitality and offices — in fact, any environment where there is high touch frequency and therefore greater risk of infections spreading.

Our latest projects

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Award-winning

Our technology has been recognised as world-leading. Working with a consortium of other manufacturing companies, we won two global innovation awards for the design of a very light rail carriage:

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