Canadian scientists at McMaster University have developed a new self-cleaning surface that can repel all forms of bacteria. The research was led by engineers Leyla Soleymani and Tohid Didar, who collaborated with colleagues from McMaster’s Institute for Infectious Disease Research and the McMaster-based Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy. The full findings of the study have been published in the journal ACS Nano.
The new wrap repels everything that comes into contact with it, including viruses and bacteria. It is designed as a transparent plastic film that’s reportedly flexible, durable, and inexpensive to manufacture. The new plastic surface can be shrink-wrapped onto surfaces that can be magnets for bacteria, such as door handles, railings, and IV stands, preventing the transfer of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and other dangerous bacteria.
The team of researchers took inspiration from hydrophobic microstructure of the lotus leaf for their design. Like the leaf, the surface of the wrap is made up of microscopic wrinkles that keep both liquid droplets and bacteria from making a solid contact. The material is additionally dipped in a liquid fluorine-based chemical to boost its repellant qualities. As a result, liquids and bacteria that land on the material simply bounce off.
The researchers tested the material using MRSA, the infamous ‘superbug’ which represents a significant concern for hospitals and nursing homes, and lung-infection causing Pseudomonas. Those are two of the most troubling forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The team used electron microscope images to verify that almost no bacteria transferred onto the wrap’s surface.
The university is now looking for industry partners who may be interested in commercializing the material. The team believes that wrap could be a vital addition to environments where it’s important to keep surfaces as bacteria-free as possible like hospitals and food preparation areas. Asst. Prof. Didar said, “We can see this technology being used in all kinds of institutional and domestic settings. As the world confronts the crisis of anti-microbial resistance, we hope it will become an important part of the anti-bacterial toolbox.”