AirTumTec hits jackpot with its disinfecting tech thanks to COVID-19

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Masks, hand sanitiser, social distancing: these are the three main things Singaporeans put at the top of their priority list when the pandemic hit. Policies and regulations were also passed every other week to find new ways of keeping Singapore safe whilst waiting for vaccinations to be developed.

Traditional disinfecting and cleaning methods were ramped up across the city, and Jason Chia saw this as a business opportunity.

He conceptualised health tech company AirTumTec in 2020, alongside Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rio Goh, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kevin Wong, and a team of highly qualified experts.

Rio Goh, Chief Executive Officer, AirTumTec
Rio Goh, Chief Executive Officer, AirTumTec / Image Credit: AirTumTec

AirTumTec’s vision is to help humanity with the prevention of transmissible diseases through its revolutionary long-lasting, self-disinfecting technology.

Traditional disinfecting and cleaning during the height of the pandemic could succumb to human error, or be insufficient. These limitations potentially exposed occupants to pathogens which may be harmful to human health. We see the potential of AirTumTec becoming a part of everyday life, protecting the lives of our loved ones.

– Rio Goh, Chief Executive Officer, AirTumTec

A solution for the masses

The initial stages of Covid-19 saw normal disinfectants largely applied to provide a hygienic environment in public facilities. Although this disinfection process kills or inactivates microorganisms effectively, there’s no residual efficacy on surfaces.

The research team — headed by specialist Dr Benny Tan — realised that long-lasting protection is essential. They conducted intensive research and testing to study the development of a disinfectant that would be able to stay effective on surfaces for prolonged periods of time.

Besides its killing mechanism, we placed strong emphasis on durability which determines how long the coating can stay effective on the coated surface.

– Rio Goh, Chief Executive Officer, AirTumTec

airtumtec antimicrobial coating
Applying AirTumTec’s antimicrobial coating / Image Credit: AirTumTec

The coating underwent a series of tests: scratching, 2,000 abrasions, heat tests, chemical resistance tests and washing tests before putting the samples against viruses and bacteria to ensure that the coating could still eliminate more than 99 per cent of germs within minutes.

After multiple testing, the team finally developed the proprietary chemistry that combined effective killing mechanisms with exceptional durability. This birthed the development of AirTumTec Technology, a disinfectant coupled with long-lasting ability that stays highly effective on surfaces over periods of time.

Resolving the root problems

The major obstacle for AirTumTec’s research team was having to ensure the selection of both a safe and effective active ingredient.

We were highly selective. We wanted to avoid active ingredients that might contain common allergens like shellfish or nut-based extracts. We also avoided QAC-based active ingredients seeing (that) they are normally slow acting as a self-disinfectant in comparison.

– Rio Goh, Chief Executive Officer, AirTumTec

airtumtec antimicrobial coating
Applying AirTumTec to high touch points / Image Credit: AirTumTec

The initial prototype development process was just as tedious. The team had to monitor the binding mechanism across different surface types — from glass to fabric — to ensure it worked consistently. 

Despite proven success of the brand’s tech, new adopters were hesitant and found the tech unnecessary. According to Goh, one of the biggest misconceptions they faced is that cleaning should be done more frequently, so antimicrobial coatings such as AirTumTec’s aren’t required.

However, cleaning can only be as frequent as practically possible. Even if cleaning is done hourly, within a one-hour lunch break, a door handle can be touched thousands of times. The amount of bio contaminants will grow exponentially, but an antimicrobial coating keeps the level of germs low enough to minimise cross-infection.

Another misconception is that frequent wiping on the coated area will diminish the efficacy of the AirTumTec coating. However, due to AirTumTec’s rigorous testing, the coating is well-tested to stay effective throughout. 

The peak of the pandemic also proved trying for the team. Clients were having difficulty staying afloat, which made it difficult for them to pay for AirTumTec’s services. The team also faced a manpower shortage, making it hard to meet demand.

To mitigate the challenges, the team provided the clients with preferential rates. They also acquired a licensed cleaning company as part of their subsidiary, and immediately retrained and reskilled its staff to assume the role of hygiene specialists. The upskilling helped its staff to proficiently apply AirTumTec technology.

Success at the peak of the pandemic

AirTumTec is also used in many government agencies offices. These include the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), and Government Technology Agency (GovTech), among others.

The peak of the pandemic also saw many businesses looking for sustainable and effective ways to protect their employees, clients, and visitors.

Without realising, AirTumTec was soon applied to Singaporeans’ everyday life. Its major milestone was having all Singapore public bus operators apply the technology to all the public buses in Singapore, thus protecting more than three million commuters a day.

airtumtec antimicrobial coating
AirTumTec’s partnership with Team Singapore at Tokyo 2021 Olympics / Image Credit: AirTumTec

The tech brand also served the Singapore National Olympics Council, protecting Team Singapore athletes, staff, and officials during their endeavours in the Tokyo Olympics 2021. Despite Tokyo reporting a record surge in infections with clusters within the Olympic Village, the Singapore team reported zero cases.

The future for AirTumTec is promising. It has evolved from a new development into the underdog that protects at every step of the way. It has plans to expand across the Southeast Asian market in the coming year, and eventually in the European and US markets as well.

Chia explains that AirTumTec’s research and future plans include focusing on solutions pertaining to environmental science.

“We’re aiming to impact our focal sectors — air and water — with our continuous endeavour to create and develop new innovative products, technologies, and ideas. We will continue to search for solutions based on natural-occurring technologies, and progressively move towards the development and application of new environmental technologies for a sustainable future,” he adds.

Featured Image Credit: AirTumTec





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