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NEWS
Nanotextured Surface That Kills Bacteria Created
January 18, 2018

By using an electrochemical etching process on a common stainless steel alloy, researchers have created a nanotextured surface that kills bacteria while not harming mammalian cells. If additional research supports early test results, the process might be used to attack microbial contamination on implantable medical devices and on food processing equipment made with the metal.


Postdoctoral Fellow Yeongseon Jang, Associate Professor Julie Champion and Postdoctoral Fellow Won Tae Choi are shown in Champion’s laboratory at Georgia Tech. With Professor Dennis Hess (not shown), the researchers developed a new nanotextured surface for stainless steel that kills common bacteria. Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech.

While the specific mechanism by which the nanotextured material kills bacteria requires further study, the researchers believe tiny spikes and other nano-protrusions created on the surface puncture bacterial membranes to kill the bugs. The surface structures don’t appear to have a similar effect on mammalian cells, which are an order of magnitude larger than the bacteria.

Beyond the anti-bacterial effects, the nano-texturing also appears to improve corrosion resistance. The research, “Inhibition of Bacterial Adhesion on Nano-Textured Stainless Steel 316L by Electrochemical Etching,” was reported recently in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“This surface treatment has potentially broad-ranging implications because stainless steel is so widely used and so many of the applications could benefit,” said Julie Champion, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “A lot of the antimicrobial approaches currently being used add some sort of surface film, which can wear off. Because we are actually modifying the steel itself, that should be a permanent change to the material.”

Champion and her Georgia Tech collaborators found that the surface modification killed both Gram negative and Gram positive bacteria, testing it on Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. But the modification did not appear to be toxic to mouse cells – an important issue because cells must adhere to medical implants as part of their incorporation into the body.

A second major potential application for the surface modification technique is food processing equipment. There, the surface treatment should prevent bacteria from adhering, enhancing existing sterilization techniques.


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