College classmates create self-sanitizing phone case

A  group of college classmates have created a phone case that they say will help to fight the novel coronavirus. 

Nick O'Brien, a senior at Vanderbilt University and co-founder of the company Aeris, joined KTVU's The Four to speak with Alex Savidge about the new development.

The phone cases are coated in copper alloy and are antimicrobial, so how do they slow the spread of the new coronavirus? 

"We use a copper-alloy composite that starts killing germs on contact," O'Brien said. "The way it works is there's millions of copper ions. They all have this loose electron that zaps germs, whether bacteria or viruses on contact, neutralizing the outer membrane of the germ."

The two-part case is thin and lightweight, so it functions just like normal. A plastic inner liner helps separate the copper from the phone so it does not create interference. 

O'Brien and his two classmates who created the case graduated a week ago on Friday. But the idea for the case came to them as the coronavirus began to have an impact on the U.S. 

"We just wanted to find a way to help," O'Brien said. One of the co-founders came across an article that said copper kills coronavirus. "We started doing more research and found a ton of evidence supporting how effective copper was at not only killing germs, not just coronavirus."

The classmates wanted to find a way to leverage this information and figured phone cases would be a great place to start since "everyone has one."

O'Brien noted that with the rise of telemedicine, many doctors and nurses in hospitals began to swap out their phone cases in order to lower germ build up on their personal devices. 

Once the cases launch, the folks at Aeris will sell them, but will also give some away to frontline health care workers. 

"We knew we wanted to give back and have philanthropy be a central part of our mission," said O'Brien. 

For every phone case that is sold, they will directly donate one to a health care worker, starting with Vanderbilt University. O'Brien says the university provided his two co-founders with excellent care after they contracted COVID-19 and have since recovered. 

Vanderbilt will get a donation of 250 cases in June.