Image: Marcelo Cáceres

APEX Insight: These security bin mats don’t know dirty.

Last August, Ohio’s Akron-Canton Airport deployed self-cleaning mats for its 250 TSA security bins, so passengers could feel more comfortable about placing their glasses, phones and other personal items where somebody’s dirty footwear may have been moments before. Instead of heavy metals or harsh chemicals, the mats contain mineral nano-crystals that continually oxidize organic contaminants 24 hours a day using light.

The company behind the mats, NanoSeptic, was involved in a survey conducted on the day of their introduction and found that of 152 travelers, 52 percent would be interested in purchasing a portable self-cleaning surface to use while on the go. NanoSeptic’s TravelWell product line, which received the innovation award at the ISSA/Interclean conference in Las Vegas late last year, offers such a personal self-cleaning travel mat, designed to make passengers feel more comfortable placing food or personal items directly on a tray table or aircraft lavatory surface.

Mark Sisson, partner at NanoSeptic, believes it could even be used as a means of ancillary revenue, as well as to improve brand perception. “The airline could provide a custom branded travel mat as an in-flight amenity for a reasonable charge, just like headphones. Our small travel mat retails for $4.95, so is in line with other amenities,” he explains. “It could also provide the travel mat for free to club members or first-class passengers, who would use it not just on the plane, but wherever they went.”

Instead of using heavy metals or harsh chemicals, the mats contain mineral nano-crystals that continually oxidize organic contaminants.

Since the mats don’t use chemicals or toxins and nothing is released from their surface, Sisson believes they could also be beneficial for food and drink preparation areas such as aircraft galleys. “The only thing we tell food service companies is the mats should not be used as cutting surfaces, because that can damage the surface just as an abrasive cleaner would,” he says.

In terms of cleaning, the mats are waterproof and, once rinsed, should be patted down with a microfiber cloth. Sixty-four percent of NanoSeptic’s survey respondents claimed they would choose an airport, airline or other travel business that uses self-cleaning products over those that don’t.

Boeing made a splash in March 2016 with news it was developing a self-cleaning lavatory that could kill 99.99 percent of pathogens by beaming ultra-violet light on surfaces like the toilet seat, countertop and sink when the space is unoccupied. The cleaning cycle would take less than three seconds and even eliminate odors caused by bacteria, but the company has yet to provide an update on its progress.

“Self-Cleaning” was originally published in the 8.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine.