Chemistry professor inspired by Indonesian earthquake

Posted April 04, 2013

In 2004, an earthquake struck Indonesia, resulting in a tsunami and the death of approximately 200,000 people. Shortly after the event, ACU’s Brian Cavitt, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, had a conversation that sparked the idea of designing a biofilm resistant polymer, which would be especially beneficial for disaster zones and people in the developing world without access to clean water.  

After conversations with biologists and university officials, Cavitt filed his first patent application on June 6, 2008, while he was in Indonesia participating in social and medical relief work. On Aug. 16, 2012, Cavitt’s patent application for new methods to keep bacteria, mold and mildew from growing on plastic materials was published. Under U.S. patent law, a patent application is granted the same privileges as a full patent until the full patent is granted or rejected.

“The design of a surface that can inhibit or eliminate the growth of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, algae) while remaining unaffected by microorganismal resistance pathways is a goal of many researchers and businesspeople,” says Cavitt. “The consumer and medical applications are limited only by our imagination." 

Applications for Cavitt's idea include concrete coatings on in-ground water receptacles to inhibit algae formation, interior and exterior paints sold at home improvement stores to reduce mold and mildew growth, coating surfaces used for food preparation to reduce the risk of food contamination, and coating pipes to reduce interior biological build-up in water pipes or oil field pipes. 

“Professionally, our work has moved ACU into a position of international recognition as a leader in the academic coatings community, especially energy curable coatings,” says Cavitt. “Socially, the work has the potential to revolutionize how we approach 'germs' and will have extreme benefit to the health of the world's populace.  In short, if maybe I'll have helped one child live, where before she might have perished, I'll consider all my research efforts a success.” 

Learn more about the ACU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry



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