New antimicrobial treatment keeps materials ‘germ free’

A University of Georgia researcher claims to have invented a new technology that can render materials permanently germ free.

The antimicrobial technology is said to work on natural and synthetic materials and can be applied during the manufacturing process. According to the university, it doesn’t come out in the wash, nor does it require repeated applications.

‘The spread of pathogens on textiles and plastics is a growing concern, especially in healthcare facilities and hotels, which are ideal environments for the proliferation and spread of very harmful microorganisms, but also in the home,’ said Jason Locklin, the inventor, who is an assistant professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and on the Faculty of Engineering.

The antimicrobial treatment invented by Locklin is claimed to kill a wide spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and moulds that can cause disease, break down fabrics, create stains and produce odours.

‘Similar technologies are limited by the cost of materials, use of noxious chemicals in the application or loss of effectiveness after a few washings,’ said Gennaro Gama, UGARF senior technology manager. ‘Locklin’s technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry.’

Gama said the technology is simple to apply in the manufacturing of fibres, fabrics, filters and plastics. It also can bestow antimicrobial properties on finished products, such as athletic wear and shoes, as well as textiles for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

‘The advantage of UGARF’s technology over competing methods is that the permanent antimicrobial can be applied to a product at any point of the manufacture-sale-use continuum,’ said Gama. ‘In contrast, competing technologies require blending of the antimicrobial in the manufacturing process.’

‘In addition, if for some reason the antimicrobial layer is removed from an article — through abrasion, for example — it can be reapplied by simple spraying,’ said Gama.

Locklin said the antimicrobial was tested against many of the pathogens common in healthcare settings, including staph, strep, E coli, pseudomonas and acetinobacter. After a single application, no bacterial growth was observed on the textile samples added to the culture, even after 24 hours at 37°C.

In testing, the treatment remained fully active after multiple hot-water laundry cycles, demonstrating the antibacterial does not leach out from the textiles even under harsh conditions.

The antimicrobial treatment is available for licensing from the University of Georgia Research Foundation. Click here for more details.

A paper on this technology was published by Locklin and colleagues online in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.