A new copper surface which can eliminate bacteria in just two minutes has been developed at the RMIT University in Australia, in collaboration with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. The material could have a wide range of useful applications in day to day life, and could help to combat the threat of antibiotic resistant superbugs.
“Incredibly, when we placed golden staph bacteria on our specially-designed copper surface, it destroyed more than 99.99% of the cells in just two minutes.” said RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Ma Qian.
How does it work?
The coppers unique porous structure is the key to its effectiveness as a rapid bacteria killer.
The researchers used a special copper mould casting process, where the copper and manganese atoms were arranged in specific formations. Next, the manganese atoms were removed from the allow using a chemical process known as dealloying, leaving pure copper, full of tiny microscale and nanoscale cavities in its surface.
This pattern makes the surface super hydrophilic, which means water will lie on it as a flat film rather than as droplets. As a consequence, the bacterial cells struggle to hold their form, while the porous pattern allows the copper ions to release faster, contributing to the structural degradation of bacterial cells.
“It’s that combination of effects that results in greatly accelerated elimination of bacteria.” - Former CSIRO researcher and study lead author, Dr Jackson Leigh Smith said.
- The material could be used to create antimicrobial door handles and other touch surfaces in schools, hospitals, homes and public transport.
- Is is 120 times faster than the original material.
- It could be used in filters in antimicrobial respirators or air ventilation systems, as well as in facemasks.
- Could help to fight current antibiotic resistance.