Antimicrobial Copper: The Germ-fighting Metal
Copper has a wide range of uses in electronics, infrastructure, and energy technologies. The red metal is virtually everywhere, from the wires in our devices to the buildings we live in.
However, copper’s medicinal applications, which go back thousands of years, aren’t as widespread in the modern world.
In this infographic from our sponsor Trilogy Metals, we explore copper’s ability to fight bacteria and its expanding role in modern healthcare.
Dr. Copper: How Copper Fights Germs
Copper is naturally antimicrobial, and ancient civilizations recognized this property. The Egyptian Smith Papyrus recorded copper’s first medical use thousands of years ago. Since then, several generations have passed down their knowledge about copper’s medicinal uses.
But how does copper kill germs?
According to the Copper Development Association, copper surfaces affect bacteria in a series of sequential steps:
#1: Breaching the Cell
Every bacterium’s outer cell membrane is characterized by an electrical micro-current, known as the “transmembrane potential”. It is suspected that when a bacterium is exposed to a copper surface, it leads to a short-circuiting of the current in the cell membrane, which weakens the membrane and creates holes.
Localized oxidation is another mechanism by which copper breaches bacterial cells. This occurs when a copper ion comes into contact with a protein or fatty acid from the bacterium’s cell membrane in the presence of oxygen, which causes oxidative damage to the cell membrane.
#2: Disrupting Cell Function
Once copper breaches the cell membrane, essential nutrients start leaking out of the cell. Simultaneously, an increasing number of copper ions enter the cell and obstruct essential metabolic activity. This reaction is catalyzed by enzymes, and as excess copper binds to the enzymes, their activity grinds to a halt.
#3: Eliminating the Germ
With an overwhelming amount of copper ions obstructing the bacterium’s metabolism, it cannot “breathe”, “eat”, or “create energy”, which effectively eliminates the bacterium.
Over 500 antimicrobial copper alloys are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means that antimicrobial copper alloys passed the EPA’s performance standard for antimicrobial efficacy of solid touch surfaces, and it’s safe to say that antimicrobial copper kills 99.9% of certain bacteria within two hours. But this does not tell the full story.
The true value of antimicrobial copper lies in its ability to kill bacteria continuously after repeated contamination events. This means that antimicrobial copper provides continuous protection against bacteria without wearing out.
However, the EPA notes that the use of a copper surface is not a substitute for standard infection control practices, and copper alloys do not necessarily prevent cross-contamination. Hence, users must continue to follow current infection control practices, including cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.
Copper vs. COVID-19
High-touch surfaces play a major role in spreading COVID-19, and copper can help stop the spread.
According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can live up to three days on plastics, compared to four hours on copper surfaces. Additionally, based on testing against harder-to-kill viruses, the EPA expects antimicrobial copper surfaces to eliminate 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 within two hours.
Copper’s ability to fight bacteria and germs enables antimicrobial applications across several industries.
The Applications of Antimicrobial Copper
From healthcare to transportation, virtually every sector can improve hygiene by installing antimicrobial copper on high-touch surfaces.
For example, a trial by TransLink, Teck Resources Ltd., and Vancouver Coastal Health found that copper kills up to 99.9% of bacteria on high-touch surfaces in public transit vehicles. This suggests that simply installing antimicrobial copper on handrails, door handles, and poles can provide people additional protection against germs.
In addition, copper can make for a highly effective antimicrobial surface in healthcare settings where the risk of infection is higher. A study by Schmidt et al., published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology Journal, found that hospital beds with copper surfaces harbored 95% fewer bacteria than conventional beds.
Furthermore, sports facilities, airports, and restaurants have also made use of antimicrobial copper as a protective layer. As more industries recognize copper’s antimicrobial properties, its applications will likely continue to grow.
A New Meaning for Dr. Copper?
Thousands of years after the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, copper’s medicinal properties are resurfacing.
With rising awareness around hygiene practices, especially in healthcare settings, the market for antimicrobial coatings is expanding. Given copper’s effectiveness in eliminating harmful bacteria, the term “Doctor Copper” may find a new meaning as its antimicrobial uses grow.
Ocean Economy: The Next Wave of Sustainable Innovation
This graphic explores how the $1.5 trillion ocean economy can help fight against some of the toughest challenges facing the world today.
Ocean Economy: The Next Wave of Sustainable Innovation
Roughly 21–37% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to our current food system, which includes conventional agriculture and land use according to the latest IPCC report.
With the global population rising and more mouths to feed, now is the time to reconsider how we can tap into our global resources to build a more sustainable food system.
This infographic from Billy Goat Brands (CSE: GOAT) (“GOAT”) explores how the ocean economy—also referred to as the blue economy—plays a vital role in our fight against climate change and other environmental challenges facing the world today.
What is the Ocean Economy?
The ocean economy is described as the sustainable use of the ocean and its resources for economic development and ocean ecosystem health.
The global economic output of the ocean economy is $1.5 trillion each year. Here is an example of some of the activities and sectors that make up the ocean economy today:
|Harvesting of living marine resources||Fisheries
|Harvesting of non-living marine resources ||Marine biology
Oil & Gas
|Transport and trade||Tourism
Shipping and shipbuilding
|Renewable energy||Renewables (wind, wave, tidal energy)|
|Indirect economic activities||Carbon sequestration
Financing ocean-related economic activities will ensure the future sustainability of this vital resource, and help combat threats that pose a risk to humanity, such as overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction.
However, some experts say that there is insufficient private and public investment in sustainable ocean economy activities.
The Investment Opportunity
Investors have a unique opportunity to drive change through companies innovating in the ocean economy and be part of the solution.
- The ocean could provide six times more food than it does today.
- Seafood continues to be the fastest growing sector by 2030 with only 60% of fish available for consumption.
- The ocean economy provides a smaller carbon footprint compared to conventional agriculture.
The potential for economic growth will only continue to grow, presenting investors and institutions with a chance to add value at this crucial stage of development while making a real and tangible impact.
In fact, investing $1 in key ocean activities can yield at least $5 in global benefits—a number that will continue to rise over the next 30 years according to a World Resources Institute report.
The report also states that investing between $2 trillion and $3.7 trillion globally across four crucial areas could generate between $8.2 trillion and $22.8 trillion in returns by 2050. These four areas are:
- Restoring mangrove habitats
- Scaling up offshore wind production
- Decarbonizing international shipping
- Increasing the production of sustainably sourced ocean-based proteins
An Ocean of Possibilities on the Horizon
Plant-based alternatives will play an important role in alleviating the pressure on ocean resources, and technological innovation has been pivotal in creating imitation products for the consumer market.
GOAT provides diversified exposure to expansion-stage companies that contribute to the ocean economy through innovative food technologies, functional foods and plant-based alternatives.
“We believe that plant-based seafood alternatives should be available for everyone, everywhere. That’s why we spent years creating a seamless experience that’s nearly indistinguishable from their animal-based counterparts.”
—Mike Woodruff, CEO Sophie’s Kitchen
Sophie’s Kitchen is one of GOAT’s investee companies and a leading California-based manufacturer and distributor of disruptive plant-based seafood alternatives.
Go to billygoatbrands.com to learn more about investing in the ocean economy today.
Impact Investing: Building a Better World
While investors often focus solely on returns, impact investing introduces a way to also tackle global environmental and social problems.
Typically, an investor’s main objective revolves around building wealth and then turning that wealth into an income generator. As a result, financial returns are accepted as the default performance metric.
But what if investing could also address the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems?
More Than Investing
This infographic from BlackRock introduces the concept of impact investing and explains why it can be a force for good.
What Does Positive Impact Look Like?
Impact investing is a sustainable investing approach that combines the intention to generate positive returns with positive, measurable social and environmental outcomes.
To understand what these outcomes actually look like, here are some highlights from the companies that the BlackRock Impact Team invests in.
- 102,000 GWh of renewable energy generated
- 11 million metric tons of food waste mitigated
- 114 million individuals empowered with access to financial services
- 99 million people given access to clean drinking water
- 600,000 families given access to affordable housing
- 1.8 billion patients given access to affordable healthcare
These outcomes were generated in 2020, and help to make our world a better place.
The Three Pillars of Additionality
For impact investing to be an effective strategy, investors must be able to accurately measure the positive outcomes their capital is helping to create. A company may claim to be aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but its actions may not be making a real world difference.
“Alignment to the SDGs is not enough to qualify as impact; we require that companies advance the SDGs by providing a solution that is additional, thereby creating genuine impact.”
-Quyen Tran, Director of Impact Investing at BlackRock
Below is an overview of the three pillars of additionality that BlackRock uses to measure impact. In this context, additionality means an outcome would not have occurred without the company’s contribution.
1. Additionality From the Investee (the company)
A company provides additionality if its products and services address a need that is unlikely to be fulfilled by others. The primary sources of company additionality are:
- The application of leading technologies
- The deployment of innovative business models
- The delivery of products and services to underserved populations
Helping underserved populations is a powerful way to create impact. In 2017, for example, it was estimated that 1.7 billion adults did not have a bank account.
2. Additionality From the Investor
Investors can also provide additionality by empowering businesses to create positive impact. This can be done through five mechanisms:
- Invest with a long-term ownership mindset
- Engage with companies to help enhance their impact outcomes
- Invest capital when an impact company needs to raise more capital
- Bring much-needed visibility to undervalued impact companies
- Create a better marketplace for impact companies looking to go public
The effects of these mechanisms are already being seen worldwide, especially as awareness of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors rises. According to a 2020 report by KPMG, 80% of companies now publish sustainability reports.
3. Additionality From the Asset Class
Even with the help of private investments, the world faces a multi-trillion-dollar shortfall in its quest to meet the UN SDGs by 2030. Public equities have the ability to shrink this gap by moving capital towards enterprises that are solving the world’s greatest challenges.
|Private market impact investing||$0.5T|
Source: McKinsey & Co (2019), BlackRock (2020)
At $93 trillion in total value, public equities are roughly 20 times larger than private markets.
Building a Better World
Solving today’s greatest challenges often requires innovative solutions. Consider the fact that many regions suffer from a lack of doctors.
|Region||Density of Physicians|
|Europe||1 for every 293 people|
|Americas||1 for every 417 people|
|Southeast Asia||1 for every 1,239 people|
|Africa||1 for every 3,324 people|
Source: World Health Organization (2021)
An impact investing strategy will seek out companies whose products or services can help to alleviate this shortage. For example, the BlackRock Impact Team has identified a medical software company whose platform lowers administrative costs and increases productivity.
Cybersecurity is another area where investors can help create positive change—according to McAfee, cybercrime has become a $1 trillion drag on the global economy.
This risk disproportionately affects small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) because they have limited resources to protect themselves. Cybersecurity companies that specialize in servicing SMEs can help protect this important part of the economy.
The Time is Now
Impact investing is not limited to a single theme. Around the world, various social and environmental issues are capturing the attention of governments and society. Ultimately, what’s needed are innovative solutions.
“If your savings can earn a strong return invested in companies that are doing good for the world, why would you invest any other way?”
—Eric Rice, Head of Active Equities Impact Investing at BlackRock
By directing capital to the right companies, investors have the potential to generate financial return while building a better world.
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