A team of Korean researchers has developed a powerful anti-biofilm material that has, like seeweeds, needle-like projections, a fine microscopic surface and a smooth film.
The Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) announced on Jan. 20 that a research team led by professor Jeong Hoon-eui of the school of mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering has developed a new antifouling material, which prevents bacteria and other microorganisms from sticking to its surface.
The team generated a myriad microstructure with numerous needle-like pillars using PEGDMA, a material that is firm and highly anti-fouling, and coated it with a thin layer of MPC, a hydrophilic material, to form a hydration layer similar to a film.
"The surface of algae such as blue or brown algae has minute projections. We have developed a microscopic surface similar to this, which pricks to death the bacteria that come close to it. The thin hydration layer on the top makes it difficult for bacteria to approach in the first place,” Jeong said
An antifouling material prevents various contaminants from sticking to its surface. It is mainly used to prevent marine organisms from sticking to the surfaces of a ship or a marine facility that is in contact with water.
Recently, researchers have been developing techniques to inhibit absorption of waste materials in medical apparatuses such as artificial joints and dental implants or prevent the formation of biofilm inside home appliances such as humidifiers.
In the past, antifouling treatment was carried out by applying a chemical substance to a surface. However, if the bacteria are resistant to chemicals or if the surface is scratched and damaged, the antifouling function was lost. In addition, the toxicity of the chemical itself has become a problem. As an alternative, there is a growing interest in mechanical antifouling, which creates fine projections in the length of nanometers (nm, 1 nm is one billionth of a meter) on the surface.
Jeong’s team plans to further study the microfine surface of seaweeds and other marine organisms to find a way to further strengthen the antifouling function. The fine surface technology can be applied to home appliances such as humidifiers as well as ships and marine equipment.
The study was featured on the cover of in the January issue of ACS Macro Letters.