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The Development story of Blue Ag+

The Development story of Blue Ag+

This is what working mothers really want, based on my experiences raising children.

Blue Ag+ is a revolutionary bacteria elimination function that defies conventional wisdom.
The development team took advantage of the experience and ideas of a working mother engineer in the team.

“Mama” Engineer M

“Mama” Engineer M
 

A member of the Front Load Washing Machine Department at Panasonic. Involved in the development and design of a washing machine featuring the Blue Ag+ function. Mother of two girls. 

“Mama” Engineer M

Hiroki KOURAI, Dr.
Authority on Bacteria Elimination

Doctor of engineering who started his career working at The University of Tokushima, before joining the International Organization for Standardization as a member of the Antibacterial, Antifungal and Antiviral Standards Committee. He was also a Committee Member for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan. He is currently an advisor to the Society for Antibacterial and Antifungal Agents, Japan.

 

Mothers with babies are very busy washing and keeping things hygienic every day

 

Mothers with babies are very busy washing and keeping things hygienic every day

Engineer M

I drew on my own parenting experiences when developing this Blue Ag+ bacteria elimination function.
At the time, washing baby clothes was a really troublesome task. After separating items from other laundry and pre-washing them, I washed them again with a special detergent for baby clothes. Then I rinsed them one extra time to make sure there was no remaining detergent residue.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

Baby clothes soon get dirty, so there's always a lot of laundry. It must have been hard work.

Mothers with babies are very busy washing and keeping things hygienic every day

Engineer M

Yes, and babies put everything in their mouths, so I always wanted to keep things clean. I was also worried about bacteria.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

You don't have to worry about common everyday bacteria harming a baby's health. But if you leave dirt on anything, bacteria may multiply.

Engineer M

I was trying really hard to be a good mother. But one day, I realized that if I spent too much time doing laundry, I wouldn't have enough time to look after my children.

I wanted a washing machine that can eliminate bacteria while washing.
That's when I started developing Blue Ag+.

Engineer M

At the time, the only ways to eliminate bacteria in laundry were either to wash with high-temperature water or use chlorine bleach.
But if I wash with high-temperature water, clothes shrink and get damaged. And it takes time. Chlorine bleach can only be used to eliminate bacteria on white clothes. After all, it's not something I can easily do every day.There wasn't a function that enabled easy bacteria elimination with any item of clothing.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

Didn't you dry clothes outside in the sun? Ultraviolet rays from sunlight also have a powerful sterilizing effect. But bacteria are only eliminated on the surface of clothes that are irradiated, so every part of an item has to be irradiated.

Engineer M

Yes, I knew that but I couldn't dry clothes outside. My daughter had bronchial problems, so I was worried that air pollution and pollen might become attached to clothes and cause her to develop allergies.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

That's why you needed a washing machine with a function that can easily eliminate bacteria on clothes.

Engineer M

Yes. That's why I wanted a washing machine with Blue Ag+.

The wisdom of our predecessors ― hygiene with silver ions

The wisdom of our predecessors ― hygiene with silver ions

The wisdom of our predecessors ― hygiene with silver ions

Searching for a simple, safe and reliable hygiene technology

Engineer M

The development team read a huge amount of material looking for new sterilization technologies.
It was at that time I came across your thesis concerning silver ions.
They can be easily used to sterilize any clothes, even colored items, and there's no problem with safety. I knew at once that this was what we'd been looking for!

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

I've been conducting research into silver ions for many years. It's been experimentally proven that silver ions have a strong, safe sterilizing effect.

Engineer M

And silver ions are relatively easy to make through a reaction with water, so it made sense to use them in a washing machine.

The wisdom of our predecessors ― hygiene with silver ions

OH radicals, the key to 99.99%* bacteria elimination

Engineer M

What we paid the most attention to was the discovery of OH radicals, which have an extremely powerful sterilizing effect. They can be produced by exposing silver ions to ultraviolet light.

The mechanism of OH radical generation and bacteria elimination

* Images are for illustrative purposes only.


 

Silver ions dissolved in water

Silver ions dissolved in water
 

stick to bacteria.

stick to bacteria.
 

When the silver ions stuck to bacteria are irradiated with UV-A light,

When the silver ions stuck to bacteria are irradiated with UV-A light,

many OH radicals excited by UV energy denature the protein of the bacteria,

many OH radicals excited by UV energy denature the protein of the bacteria,

which suppresses their activity.

which suppresses their activity.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

OH radicals, also called hydroxyl radicals, are a type of reactive oxygen. They work in the same way as the substances released by macrophages and natural killer cells, which are related to white blood cells, that attack bacteria and viruses entering the body.

Engineer M

Silver ions alone have a sufficiently strong bacteria elimination effect, but we needed something even more reliable.
There's no such thing as "100%" in the world of technology, but we had to get as close to it as possible.
The good thing about OH radicals is that they have the same mechanism of action as the body's immune system, so they're safe and reliable.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

But OH radicals have an extremely short lifetime.

Engineer M

We overcame this problem by coming up with a way to continuously generate them.
Ag ions dissolved in rinse water stick to clothing. UV-A irradiation of these ions during the rinse cycle successively generates OH radicals to enable continuous bacteria elimination.

OH radicals, the key to 99.99%* bacteria elimination

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

 I see. Irradiating clothes with UV inside the tub is a great idea.
Because the clothes are agitated, the OH radicals are evenly distributed.
 

Engineer M

It was difficult, though, and it didn't work well at first.
Through repeated trial and error, we finally figured out the best balance between UV wavelength and intensity, lamp mounting position, irradiation time, timing and other factors.

Stable performance is a must in any home

Stable performance is a must in any home

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

Applying my research results for a washing machine must have posed some difficult problems.

Engineer M

There's a difference between the lab and a regular household. During a wash, a washing machine constantly splashes water and detergent, and vibrates. This affects the bacteria elimination effect. In theory it may seem easy, but in fact it isn't.

Not only high performance but also convenience and safety are guaranteed. That's Japan quality.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

Were there any other difficulties?

Engineer M

Water pressure, which differs from home to home. If water flow is too powerful, the concentration of dissolved Ag ions decreases. To deliver stable performance, the design had to be able to maintain an Ag concentration above the standard level under any water supply conditions.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

I followed this up in my university lab, and the presence of OH radicals was confirmed. And 99.99%* bacteria elimination performance has also been certified by a third party evaluation organization.

Engineer M

We're confident that our design will produce reliable results under any conditions.

Not only high performance but also convenience and safety are guaranteed.
That's Japan quality. 

Not only high performance but also convenience and safety are guaranteed. That's Japan quality.

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

Even if bacteria elimination performance is achieved, technological innovation doesn't end, does it?

Engineer M

No. There are endless challenges, such as how to make washing more stress-free, and how to help mothers raising children.
We're constantly improving our products to make them more convenient, safer and more durable.
We believe that this commitment and technological prowess is the cornerstone of Panasonic's Japan quality.

Bringing Blue Ag+ technology to life
Bringing Blue Ag+ technology to life

Bringing Blue Ag+ technology to life

Bringing Blue Ag+ technology to life

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

Making silver ions in rinse water and irradiating them with UV-A radiation to eliminate bacteria. It's a ground-breaking approach.

Ag+ Case

Ag+ Case
The Ag ion device releases Ag ions into the rinse water.

UV Light
Blue UV light at the upper part of the drum eliminates bacteria.

Bringing Blue Ag+ technology to life

When water passes through the Ag+ case, it becomes infused with silver ions before it pours down onto clothes.
These Ag ions sticking to the clothes are then irradiated with UV-A. Bacteria are thoroughly eliminated while clothes are agitated.

Engineer M

After being rinsed twice as usual, bacteria on clothes are eliminated during a third rinse.
(Rinsing three times also makes sure there's no remaining detergent.)

Bringing Blue Ag+ technology to life

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

The Ag+ case is a cartridge type so it can be replaced, right?

Engineer M

The silver ion device has also been improved.
At the beginning of development, ions were generated by passing an electric current through an electrode plate, but we refined this into a simpler cartridge type device. This lets users replace the device themselves.
We also improved the shape of the case to make it easier for water to flow through it. And it's designed with safety in mind, so users can't directly touch the antibacterial agent.

Bringing Blue Ag+ technology to life

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

Third party evaluation certification test results confirmed that 99.99%* of bacteria were eliminated.

Engineer M

Of course I was confident about its performance, but I'm relieved that it's been officially proven to be effective in eliminating bacteria.
And the bacteria elimination effect continues after washing.

*OH radical generation data, third party test data confirming 99.99%* bacteria elimination.

Certification of Blue Ag+ Bacteria Elimination Performance

Certification of Blue Ag+ Bacteria Elimination Performance

*Certified by Japan Food Research Laboratories. Test report number:
19085536001-0201 *Eliminating bacteria rate: Staphylococcus aureus up to 99.99%, Escherichia coli up to 99.99%.

 

*OH radical generation data, third party test data confirming 99.99%* bacteria elimination.

Engineer M

Let Blue Ag+ do the hard work of eliminating bacteria so that all mothers can spend more quality time with their children. That was my goal.

 

Hiroki
KOURAI, Dr.

Applying my research results to improve people's quality of life will make researchers very happy.

Bringing Blue Ag+ technology to life

Products used in this article

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