The fastest-growing waste in the European Union (EU) could soon be helping to combat hospital infections, according to scientists at York University.
Researchers at the university’s Department of Chemistry have discovered a way of transforming the chemical compound polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) – a key element of LCD television sets – into an anti-microbial substance that destroys infections such as Escherichia coli (E.coli) and some strains of Staphylococcus aureus.
The York research team had previously found a method of recovering PVA from television screens and transforming it into a substance that, owing to its compatibility with the human body, could be suitable for use in tissue scaffolds that help parts of the body regenerate. It could also be used in pills and dressings that are designed to deliver drugs to particular parts of the body.
Dr Andrew Hunt of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence said: ’By heating then cooling the PVA and then dehydrating it with ethanol, we can produce a high-surface-area mesoporous material that has great potential for use in biomedicine.
’Now we have gone a step further by enhancing its anti-microbial properties through the addition of silver nanoparticles, with the result being that it can destroy bacterial infections such as E.coli. Potentially, it could be used in hospital cleaning products to help to reduce infections.’
The researchers’ next step will be to test the PVA-based substance against commercial compounds to determine relative effectiveness and to secure approval from regulatory agencies regarding the suitability of silver nanoparticles for human health applications.
The research is a development from a long-term project, funded by the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board and in which York University is a partner, examining the problems posed by LCD waste.