Copper-fastened for success
Local entrepreneur Martin McVicar is a man unwilling to sit upon his laurels. Not content with solving one pandemic problem with the launch of Combi-Ventilate, an innovative splitting device for hospital ventilators, he’s now poised to launch Copper-Cover – a new venture designed to help combat the further spread of COVID-19. Copper-Cover applies antimicrobial copper-alloy to regularly used home and workplace surfaces and touch points. Door handles, rails, light-switches, sink taps and even toilet handles have already been successfully treated at more than half a dozen schools, crèches and businesses in the Monaghan area. Similar to Combi-Ventilate, Martin never set out to reinvent the wheel, instead preferring to explore ways to make it turn differently. The efficacy of copper, an essential trace element, but for its antimicrobial properties, dates back to ancient times. Its oldest recorded medical use is mentioned in the Smith Papyrus, and in more recent decades, has been the subject of over 600,000 peer reviewed papers published in English. That number spikes to two million if Spanish, German and French academic validations are included. For more scientific spin, when a pathogen lands on copper, ions blast the microbe at a rate that accelerates deterioration, especially on dry surfaces.
“On stainless steel most viruses will last for two or three days, whereas on copper, they’ll last two or three minutes at most,” explains Martin.
Copper-Cover, which registered its trading name only at the end of May, was set up by Martin alongside copper and silver ionization expert Michael McGrath. Martin enthuses that his collaborator Michael “lives and breathes” copper. Not literally, obviously, but as if to prove the point further, Martin shows his phone where Michael’s number is saved under the name ‘Mike Copper’.
“After Covid as a business owner I wanted to put any measure possible in place to help reduce the possibility of the virus being transferred. So we looked at everything, and one was the process of applying copper onto handles and other surfaces. We ended with a process of spraying so that it builds a layer of copper and has a microbial effect still,” he says, speaking exclusively to The Anglo-Celt last week.
The new €50 million 100-acre Combi-lift factory in Monaghan was among the first locations where Copper-Cover spraying system was tested. It is blasted using a compressed air source equipped with rocket-nozzle onto the specified surface at speed of Mach 1.5 (3,600mph) using patent-pending technology. The concept is one originally considered by the Soviets in their space programme in the 1980s. The result is a sheen layer, just 800 microns deep, so thin it’s invisible to the human eye except for colour. Martin also notes the reason why copper touch surfaces aren’t standard simply boils down to cost.