A University of Georgia chemist has invented something that should be a boon to both hospital staff and athletes ... a permanent spray-on antibacterial polymer coating. It can be applied to natural and synthetic materials - just once - and even after repeated washings, will continue to kill a wide range of bacteria, yeasts and molds. In health care settings, it could be used on textiles such as lab coats, scrub suits, uniforms, gowns, gloves and linens, to protect patients from infections. It could also be used on athletic wear, along with shoes, socks, undergarments, and just about anything else that tends to get germy.

The exact principles at work in the coating are a trade secret, as the university is intending to license it to a commercial client. A paper on the technology only describes its makeup by stating "Antimicrobial copolymers of hydrophobic N-alkyl and benzophenone containing polyethylenimines were synthesized from commercially available linear poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline), and covalently attached to surfaces of synthetic polymers, cotton, and modified silicon oxide using mild photo-cross-linking."

The synthesis and application of the coating is said to be simple, inexpensive and scalable. Unlike some other antibacterial coatings, it can also be added after a product has been created, instead of having to be integrated into the production process. Should it get scraped or worn off, the exposed section of the item can simply be resprayed.

Assistant professor of chemistry Jason Locklin, who invented the coating, tested it on textiles that were exposed to pathogens such as staph, strep, E. coli, pseudomonas and acetinobacter. Even after 24 hours at a temperature of 37C (98.6F), no bacterial growth was detected on the samples. The coated textiles still displayed this germ-killing quality after numerous hot-water washes.

Besides its use on fabrics, U Georgia's patent-pending coating could also be used on items such as military apparel and gear, food packaging, plastic furniture, pool toys, medical and dental instrumentation, and bandages.

The research was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.