Birmingham makes steel safer

Birmingham University researchers plan to develop new germ-resistant surfaces for stainless steel medical equipment, potentially helping the fight against hospital infections such as MRSA and C.difficile.


A team at the university’s Department of Metallurgy and Materials will use new surface engineering techniques to create the multifunctional alloys, which would also be highly durable and corrosion resistant.


The anti-bacterial properties of silver and copper and their low-toxicity to humans make them ideal candidates for use in healthcare equipment. Silver, for example, is used in bone cement.


However, according to the Birmingham researchers previous attempts to coat stainless steels with a silver-doped polymer coating have proved unsatisfactory.


The team will investigate new surface alloying techniques based on recently developed active screen plasma technology in a bid to create the desired properties.


If successful, the new surfaces could also be used in food manufacturing and processing equipment, domestic appliances and in general engineering applications, said the Birmingham team.


The three-year project has been backed by a £320,000 grant from the EPSRC.