The 'Smelly Man' of Sedgley is behind an innovative new product that aims not only to combat the spread of the MRSA bug, but also brighten the mood of patients and hospital staff alike.

Known as the 'Smelly Man' by colleagues and clients, Brian Chappell is chief executive of family-firm Signature Aromas, a small business specialising in automated air fresheners using natural oils.

The company has recently branched out and is on the verge of launching a new product, called Purazone, which will use UVC light to kill airborne bacteria and viruses.

Mr Chappell said: " Signature has specialised in air fresheners for some time and, because the scents are not made from chemical irritants, many of our clients have been hospitals and care homes.

"Studies are also being undertaken to research the therapeutic effects of different smells on patients.

"MRSA has been in the news and, having formed out of a firm specialising in air filters for pubs and clubs, we began to consider whether we could construct a device that could clean the air in hospitals and remove airborne infections.

"One of our suppliers produced UV tubes and we learnt that UVC light particularly is recognised as a germicidal agent. We realised that with some development we could create a unit that would combine the germicidal properties of UVC and the therapeutic effects of natural oils."

The result was Purazone, which underwent its preliminary launch yesterday . Although subject to final tests, four UK hospitals and several care homes are already in line to trial the product in the next four to six weeks.

"Preliminary tests showed that the unit could kill Gram-Positive bacteria - the most difficult to eradicate - so we are confident Purazone can do the job," said Mr Chappell.

Signature Aromas was created as a sole company in 2002, after Mr Chappell's Tipton- based Britannia Hygiene was sold to a multinational group.

Mr Chappell said: " I retained Signature and its natural oil-products when the company was sold, but as part of the contract we were obliged to move out of the markets we had previously operated in."

"We identified the NHS as a potential market and the other opportunities presented themselves through shows and events."

Signature now has three key markets - health, retail and transport. In January, the firm secured its biggest contract to date with Central Trains. The five-figure deal was to supply 883 of Signature's disc air-fresheners for use in the company's trains.

Signature has also recently won a contract to supply Travel West Midlands. The company's Vaporama air fresheners are now fitted to hundreds of buses in the region.

"If there was one bit of advice I could give to other small businesses it would to keep your markets wellspread," Mr Chappell said.

"If you have all your eggs in one basket and your basket has a hole in it, then you're in trouble. I am really pleased with the major accounts we have and we put a great deal of effort into offering a personal service, but I'm equally pleased when I receive an order from a small nursing home in Bilston. The small stuff is our bread and butter - it's our base which we can build the bigger contracts on."

As the contracts have grown, the firm has got smellier with the number of aromas rising from delicate nine to a rather whiffy 42.

The aromas are developed at a laboratory in the US where sample smells are analysed and replicated using natural oils. Signature has recently launched cucumber, banana and butter-popcorn scents.

"People can choose their fragrance, but it will be influenced by where the unit is. For example, if someone is using the Purazone unit in a recovery ward, then patients might benefit from the 'relaxing' aromatherapy blend.

However, if it is in a area that may have some unpleasant smells a odour neutralising aroma such as 'maraschino cherry' may be better."

Signature has also supplied the smell of starch to exclusive suit-company Thomas Pink, but Mr Chappell's favourite odour is freshly-cut grass which he uses in his offices and, he claims, helps him make believe he is out on the golf course.

He said: "As a small firm, we have to be unique. Small businesses can't compete with the multinationals so they have to find their niches.

"This company is a very curious egg... although we haven't developed that particular aroma yet!"