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College Seniors Develop Copper Phone Case – A “Smart Move” for Smartphones Amidst a Pandemic

Courtesy of the current coronavirus pandemic, we wash our hands – perhaps more frequently and thoroughly than before, and contactless shopping is becoming the norm for many.  Disinfectant has become more than a household staple, and we find ourselves constantly sanitizing everything from light switches over door handles to groceries.  

To borrow a quote from beloved (or, depending on how many times you have had to watch the movie if you’re a parent, barely tolerated) Olaf, the snow man in Disney’s Frozen II: “We’re calling this ‘controlling what you can when things feel out of control.’”

And in fact, these preventative measures are some the most effective precautions we can take. However, as a group of senior students from Vanderbilt University have recently pointed out, “[w]hat many people don’t realize, however, is that there is something we touch as often as our faces, and many times before our faces. That thing is our phone.”

Arguing that the average smartphone user touches their phone about three times per minute, and that “[w]ith over 25,000 bacteria per square inch, it is a virtual petri dish — dirtier than your typical bathroom flush handle,” they have developed a new phone case that, as they say, effectively “washes” itself.  And, as follower of ARPN you may have guessed it — there’s a critical minerals angle here: They’re leveraging the antimicrobial power of copper.

The case developed by the seniors, who just founded a startup company, has a copper alloy surface harnessing copper’s properties and inhibit the buildup of disease-causing bacteria and other germs, properties ARPN previously discussed here, here, and here.

While getting their startup off the ground, the seniors are currently working alongside Vanderbilt University Medical Center to equip 250 “frontline medical workers” with their antimicrobial copper phone cases.

While the case will not “diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent coronavirus, COVID-19, or any other illness,” and “is in no way intended to substitute for precautions or other guidelines suggested by the CDC, such as social distancing and hand washing” its construction is based on scientific evidence, most recently confirmed by the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University, showing that while SARS-CoV-2 was stable “for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel,” it was only detectable on copper surfaces for four hours.  

Based on these findings, the phone case may well become another tool in the arsenal to fight COVID-19 and future pandemics — alongside, perhaps the copper-infused fabrics ARPN’s Dan McGroarty recently discussed in his piece for The Economic Standard.

As McGroarty concluded in that piece, 

“Hard as it is to envision, this won’t be our last pandemic. COVID, or some mutant cousin, will make a return visit this fall, next winter, or next year. Now is the time for smart moves to respond to this threat and prepare for future ones. New public spaces—and particularly the touch-points of human contact within those spaces—must become our first line of protection. Anti-microbial metals like copper are an indispensable weapon in this war.” 

With our phones having effectively become an extension of our hands, encasing it in a copper alloy represents one such “smart move.”