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Snapshot: Copper-based tech solutions to help tackle COVID-19

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, June 25, 2020
Snapshot: Copper-based tech solutions to help tackle COVID-19

COVID-19 has boosted innovation by startups applying copper-based tech solutions to add value to the metal, whose germ-killing properties could help prevent the spread of the virus.

In Chile, the world’s largest red metal producer, the government is proposing the use of copper nanoparticles in bills and bank cards.

“We have proposed to Chile’s mint that all the bills put into circulation, as well as debit and credit cards, could incorporate copper nanoparticles to reduce the spread of bacteria,” mining minister Baldo Prokurica said during a webinar about new uses for copper, organized by mining promotion entity Corporación Alta Ley. 

“Likewise, we have proposed to the public works ministry to include facilities with copper in tenders for hospitals, airports and terminals.” 

Earlier this month, Michael Braungart, pioneer of the ‘cradle to cradle’ design concept, said that for Chile to stay successful as a copper producer, the country must sell services. 

Copper-based tech solutions created in Chile and available in other countries include fabrics, 3D printed facemasks, wound treatments, antimicrobial paint and buttons for elevators and ATMs. 

The following companies participated in the webinar:

Copptech 

This biotech company is delivering antimicrobial solutions combining copper and zinc, which can be applied on fabrics, plastic, construction materials, food packaging and body creams. They form alliances to apply the technology in products from other companies. 

“The only way to give copper a different use with a global impact is through its inclusion in all materials we use, but to create all of those products wasn’t possible, so we created a technology that could be implemented by others,” Copptech co-founder, José Miguel Mendiburo, said during the webinar.

Copper 3D

A Chilean-US company which has created an open source 3D-printed N95 face mask using copper particles. Since the spread of COVID-19 the product has been downloaded more than 17mn times worldwide. 

The Copper Company

An SME supported by Chile’s state copper miner Codelco which works on research and development of smart fabrics including nanotechnology to reduce infections, to protect against accidental splashes of fluids with luminescent properties to make the person more visible and so reduce safety risks, as well as thermally insulated and mosquito-repellent fabrics.

Atacama Lab

A startup which has converted metallic copper into a liquid that can be used as a paint to cover surfaces. The Copper Armour, as they named the product, is currently used in the COVID-19 area of the University of Chile’s hospital in Santiago. 

“For us the challenge was to offer copper to people in a simple way. We currently apply 200-500g of metallic copper to different surfaces at a lower cost than using huge metal structures,” Claudio Ramírez, partner at Atacama Lab, said during the event. 

CUper science

A startup which uses copper-based products for treatment of wounds in patients with diabetes. Their products have been used by the Chilean diabetes association. 

Cobre activo 

Another local startup which currently offers personalized buttons for elevators and ATMs to reduce COVID-19 contagion risk. 

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