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New antibacterial fabric kills infectious bacteria within 10 minutes

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May 5, 2014

Antibacterial fabric developed at RMIT kills E. coli (pictured) and other infectious bacte...

Antibacterial fabric developed at RMIT kills E. coli (pictured) and other infectious bacteria within 10 minutes (Image: Shutterstock)

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With a well established ability to kill off bacteria, silver has come to play a significant role in the development of antimicrobial materials. Indeed, we've seen it used in keyboards, built into water filtration systems and deployed in washing machines as a means of fending off germs. The latest effort to harness the bacteria-fighting qualities of silver comes from researchers at Australia's RMIT University working with scientists from the CSIRO, who have developed an antibacterial fabric capable of killing off E. coli and other infectious bacteria within 10 minutes of contact.

The team developed the antibacterial fabric by embedding sets of nanowires loaded with silver-TCNQ into a cotton textile. After being coated in a silver solution, the nanoarrays began to slowly release silver-ions that killed off bacteria as they came into contact.

"The fabric can be built into most materials, such as cotton or nylon," Vipul Bansal, Associate Professor at RMIT's School of Applied Sciences and leader of the research team tells Gizmag. "And from there it is a simple step. We took a T-shirt and dipped it into the silver solution under some controlled conditions to enable the nanowires. It then killed off the bacteria within 10 minutes of being exposed to the organisms."

Further to the fast-acting nature of the fabric, Bansal also emphasized its longevity as a potential advantage over other antibacterial fabrics.

"Our approach involves the nanowires dissolving slowly, which will work to extend the life of the material," says Bansal. "In our studies, we observed that after dipping the fabric in the solution, the silver ions responsible for killing off the bacteria were still being released after five days."

Bansal says these materials hold great potential for curtailing hospital-acquired infections through applications such as antibacterial bed linen and surgical aprons, and could also be used to produce antibacterial "dressings and Band-Aids that could kill bacteria in the wound, resulting in faster healing." The researchers will now turn their attention to establishing the safety of the material in hospital environments.

"We've established the nanowires are toxic to the bacteria," says Bansal. "Our next phase is to test its toxicity against human cells."

The team's research was published the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: RMIT University

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. He now writes for Gizmag, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, Melbourne's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches.   All articles by Nick Lavars
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2 Comments

Just what we need - fabrics which release toxic silver ions into the environment ! Wonderful !...

Henri

mhenriday
6th May, 2014 @ 08:41 am PDT

Is this another case of searching for a solution in technology that nature has solved for thousands of years?

Hemp, Linen and Nettle Cloth (all of the bast fibers) have all been known for their abilities to break down microbes and such. Cotton and man made fibers are notoriously bad at breaking down things, which is why cotton et al needs to be washed so much more often than wool or bast fibers.

White Druid
6th May, 2014 @ 11:29 am PDT
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