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Sci-Tech

This glowing door handle zaps itself free of icky bathroom germs

A self-powering door handle that kills germs dead could make bathrooms less of a breeding ground for yuck, and it comes from the minds of two teenage inventors.

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Laura Buitrago/Society for Science & the Public

Think back to your high school days. What would you say your biggest accomplishments were? Even if you led the football team in lifetime rushing yards or scored a full scholarship to the University of the World's Most Awesome People, you probably didn't accomplish half as much as two high-schoolers from Hong Kong.

Sum Ming Wong, 17, and Kin Pong Li, 18, unveiled an impressive project at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May that tackles a pretty yucky problem. They invented a door handle specifically for bathrooms that rids itself of germs using inexpensive materials.

Even for non-germaphobes, public bathrooms can be cause for wariness. A 2011 study funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (yes, THAT Howard Hughes who thought germs were trying to kill him every second of every day he was alive) found 19 different bacteria in public restrooms in just about every conceivable surface, including the door handles.

Wong and Li's door handle -- one of hundreds of projects shown at the fair -- completely eliminates the bacteria that come into contact with it. The teens coated a clear glass cylinder with a bacteria-killing mineral called titanium dioxide, according to Student Science, a publication of the Society for Science & the Public, which sponsors the science fair.

The mineral works best when exposed to natural sunlight or ultraviolet light, so the pair also inserted an LED light into the clear tube that serves as the door handle.

The most ingenious part of their design comes from the light's power source. Instead of operating on traditional electricity or a battery, it's powered by the opening and closing of the door through a gearbox attached to the door that converts the motion into electrical power.

And here's the kicker. The materials used to construct this self-powering, germ-killing door handle only cost around $13 (about £8, AU$17).

Then again, can you really put any price on a device that prevents germaphobes from having to wear Hazmat suits in public just so they can use the bathroom?

The invention won a second-place award in the material sciences category of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. No word yet on when you might be holding onto this germ-zapping door handle in a public restroom near you.

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Sum Ming Wong (left) and Kin Pong show off the germ-proof handle they invented for bathroom doors. And they're still in high school.Laura Buitrago/Society for Science & the Public

(Via Business Insider)