Effects of additives on polymers



The mechanical properties of polymers can be compromised by the incorporation of any additive, and this is also true of biocides, which are reactive and can interact with the polymer chain, and can also reduce the effectiveness of properties such as flame retardancy.

SteriTouch, based in the South Wales Valleys, has invested heavily in technical testing equipment to work alongside its production facility, creating a one-stop shop for customers looking for more than just a supplier of antimicrobial additives reliant on third parties.

Demonstrating the efficacy of an antimicrobial product in laboratory conditions is relatively straightforward. Yet when that product is placed on the market and continuously exposed to UV and the elements for 10 years, or repeatedly scrubbed with strong cleaning chemicals; not a huge amount of test data is available.

The company has invested in an Atlas Xenon weathering station to accurately forsee any potential effects on the antimicrobial performance, which will run alongside the older QUV model already in place at the facility. Extensive environmental testing of products such as paints and plastics using SteriTouch additives has already demonstrated no loss in efficacy due to extreme conditions.

In many sectors, where antimicrobial products are also in regular contact with cleaning fluids such as bleach and acetone, test results have shown performance is unaffected, which may offer leverage when getting products specified by the NHS and such.

SteriTouch also manufactures detectable masterbatches and compounds, often utilised in food processing and pharmaceutical manufacturing to prevent foreign object contamination. Impact and tensile strength can sometimes be reduced when using both detectable additives and antimicrobials, sometimes necessitating modification using other components.

Many detectable products will fail under stress due to their filler content; SteriTouch regularly puts its products through in-house impact and tensile testing to determine any weaknesses, and also carries out comparison tests on competing products to make sure they perform in the way a customer would expect. A Boy injection moulder and twin screw extruder on site allows for quick turnaround of test swatches and runs of custom masterbatch.

Customers also benefit from the free use of the established SteriTouch co-brand on their products; used by the likes of Sennheiser, Everbuild and PHS Washrooms to highlight both the antimicrobial properties and also to mark the use of a BPR (Biocidal Products Regulation) supported additive with truly independent test data.

SteriTouch has recently appointed Damian Harvey in the role of business development. With a background in print and packaging, Damian will be moving customer projects through the integration process to manage the increase in overseas enquiries.