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Unilever, Innova bring self-cleaning surfaces closer to reality

Unilever has collaborated with Innova Partnerships to commercialise a bacteria-prevention technology under a joint venture Penrhos Bio, which effectively create ‘self-cleaning surfaces’. 

Called Lactam, the patented technology can block or prevent bacteria and mould on everyday surfaces, including washing machines and dishwashers. Researched for more than 10 years by Unilever, the technology is created from natural chemicals found in seaweed.

“This technology replicates the natural cleaning process of seaweed; keeping surfaces clean and repelling unwanted invaders from its direct environment,” said Neil Parry, R&D programme director, biotechnology and biosourcing at Unilever. 

Parry said the biology works in dirty waters by blocking the communication between bacteria so that it cannot colonise and build up on healthy surfaces of the plant. 

According to the company, the technology can be used across multiple sectors, including healthcare, textiles and marine and could even be used in medical fields where microbial biofilms are commonplace.

“This is what we have successfully replicated in the lab, and now we are ready to start trialling this in our Unilever cleaning products,” he added. 

“We’re currently working with license partners for banknotes and dental applications, but there are so many more uses in which this technology could benefit,” said Steve Howell, founder of Innova Partnerships. 

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