Scientists may be battling it out to be first to find a vaccine against COVID-19, but one British graduate has found an unexpected defence against the coronavirus – recycled copper.
Andrew Medland, 22, and two of his friends are designing products which could not only prevent the spread of the pandemic but help flatten this and future curves.
Born in the UK, Andrew attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, when he tested positive for COVID-19 in March, 2020. Along with his housemates and co-inventors, Isaac Lichter and Nick O’Brien, they had to go into isolation.
“I had a fever for about an hour and a half and I lost my appetite but other than that I was really pretty much okay,” he said. “But we got very bored in quarantine and then Isaac read an article that copper kills germs.
“We did more research and discovered 20 scientific papers that said the same thing and it just seemed logical to us that somehow we could use it to help people.
“Isaac is an engineering graduate so he started tinkering in the garage. We went to the shop and bought a whole load of different household items and then tinkered around trying to figure out how we could cover them in copper.
“The initial difficulty was working out the best way to transfer the copper. In the end, we decided to focus on a product which we felt people always had with them – their mobile phone – so a case for it seemed the ideal prototype.”
The three friends wanted to get their idea straight to market but being students they had loans and debts — not a ready injection of cash. So they set up a crowdfunding page.
Such was the interest that a manufacturer, specialising in copper products, sent them a message on Instagram from his base in San Diego and invited them to meet up.
The talented trio set up their company Aeris and within weeks production of their mobile phone case was up and running with the first ones going on sale in June.
They also have AirPods cases and masks with Aeris’s proprietary coating method which integrates an age-old understanding of copper’s properties with cutting-edge technology.
Natural copper begins as electrical wiring is salvaged and repurposed for the company’s products. Over time the copper develops a dusky hue.
The three were determined to help key medical workers and for every case that they sold – 2,500 initially – they donated the same amount to key hospitals throughout the US.
“We use recycled copper and now although we have been successful with the phone covers we see real potential in using the copper on door handles, railings, even work surfaces. In the service industry, this could mean more than 50 per cent of the room is sanitised. This would lower transmission rates of all germs and ultimately, we hope, change lives,” adds Andrew, who, together with Isaac and Nick, has now moved to San Diego to be near their manufacturer.
With their collective backgrounds in engineering, public health and economics, they all share the workload, but Andrew admits one of their toughest tasks is getting people to actually believe the science behind what they are doing.
“Copper really does work to stop germs spreading. Science has already proved that time and time again, now we are doing something about it.
“I must admit I never thought I’d be the type of person to be involved in a start-up but it has been incredibly exciting. Of course, there are down days but it’s great to think where this could lead, not just for us starting out on our careers but for the health of the population worldwide.”
For more information and to order a phone case for $39 US, visit Aeris.One