UW-Platteville professor manufactures hand sanitizer for Wisconsin communities

Dr. James Hamilton, professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is working with the state of Wisconsin to produce tens of thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to help protect communities from COVID-19.

“The state contacted me and those in the chemical manufacturing space to ask if any of us could produce hand sanitizer because there wasn’t any around,” Hamilton said. “Now we will be shipping to a state warehouse in Madison (Wisconsin) 25,000, bottles of hand sanitizer.”

Hamilton is the owner of Photonic Cleaning Technology, LLC. His product First Contact Polymer cleans telescopes and high-power laser optics. According to Hamilton, some of the chemicals, bottles and packaging used for his business are similar to the solvents and additives which are used in hand sanitizer. To help with the mass production, Hamilton hired 12 new employees including six UW-Platteville students. The majority of the students have worked in Hamilton’s research lab on campus.

“It’s been exciting,” Hamilton said. “The students and community members have really stepped up. They are really happy to be helping. They are doing the bottling and manufacturing. We have gone from zero to 300 gallons a week within two weeks.”

Wisconsin is not the only state trying to combat the shortage of hand sanitizer. Hamilton acknowledges there has been a shortage of hand sanitizer ingredients across the country.

“In the United States there are literally no more plastic bottles, caps or spray heads,” Hamilton said. “Fortunately, we had a big inventory in stock so we could get started. I have spent an enormous amount of time going to every distributer around and talking with them. There is no more. You can’t get bottles; you can’t get alcohol.”

To help with the production, Hamilton is able to use the building next to his business. The additional space allows for a larger gap of social distancing.

“We have completely separated my two companies into the sanitizer manufacturer and the coating manufacturer. There is no interaction between the people,” Hamilton said. “People in one business aren’t allowed to go into the other building.”

As Hamilton’s team continues to produce hand sanitizer for Wisconsinites across the state, they are also giving back to local front-line workers. “We dropped off a bunch of it at the police station, fire station and the ambulance service,” Hamilton said. “We have had a lot delivery trucks; 20 or 30 of them in the past two weeks and we give it to all the drivers.”

Community members can purchase the hand sanitizer at Heiser Hardware in Platteville.

“These are difficult times. Anything we can do to help our neighbors is good,” Hamilton said. “Platteville and the surrounding area don’t have to worry about a supply of hand sanitizer anymore.”