Researchers at McMaster University in Canada have developed a self-cleaning surface that can repel all forms of bacteria, an advance that may lead to new strategies against antibiotic-resistant superbugs in settings ranging from hospitals to kitchens.
The material is basically a conventional transparent wrap that went through chemical treatment and some nanoscale alterations to its surface.
In fact, the self-cleaning material was heavily inspired by the lotus leaf, whose surface naturally repels liquids — a process known as superhydrophobicity. Just like the lotus leaf, the new material has a roughened surface — a wrinkled texture that creates miniature air pockets, minimizing the contact area between the surface and a liquid, almost like standing on a bed of needles.
“We’re structurally tuning that plastic,” said Leyla Soleymani , an engineering physicist at McMaster. “This material gives us something that can be applied to all kinds of things.”
Scientists further enhanced the plastic wrap’s repelling properties through a chemical treatment.
The resulting material acts as a firm barrier against even the meanest superbugs. For instance, it could be wrapped around door handles, railings, and any surface that typically attracts bacteria like MRSA, E. coli, Salmonella, and C. difficile.
“We can see this technology being used in all kinds of institutional and domestic settings,” Didar says. “As the world confronts the crisis of anti-microbial resistance, we hope it will become an important part of the anti-bacterial toolbox.”
The scientists verified the effectiveness of the material by spraying two of the most challenging strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria onto it. An analysis performed with an electron microscope showed no trance of bacterial transfer on the surface of the material.
In the future, the scientists hope to bring their product to market by partnering with select industry partners.