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Inexpensive and lasting anti-microbial products, nanotechnology creates synthetic, chemical-free, antibacterial surfaces

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a healthcare-associated infection. Lab coats, scrub suits, uniforms, gowns, gloves and linens are known to harbor microbes that cause patient infections. Consumersí concern about harmful microbes has spurred the market for clothing, undergarments, foot wear and home textiles with antimicrobial products. But to be practical, both commercial and consumer anti-microbial products must be inexpensive and lasting. A new technology that can inexpensively render permanently germ-free medical linens and clothing, face masks, paper towels, diapers, intimate apparel and athletic wear, has been developed. The simple and inexpensive antimicrobial technology developed by University of Georgia (UGA) researcher has invented works on natural and synthetic materials. The technology can be applied during the manufacturing process or at home, and it doesnít come out in the wash. Unlike other antimicrobial technologies, repeated applications are unnecessary to maintain effectiveness.
Jason Locklin, the inventor, is an assistant professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and on the Faculty of Engineering. The antimicrobial treatment effectively kills a wide spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause disease, break down fabrics, create stains and produce odors. This technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry. It is simple to apply in the manufacture of fibers, fabrics, filters and plastics, and can bestow antimicrobial properties on finished products, such as athletic wear and shoes, and textiles for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Its biggest advantage is that the permanent antimicrobial can be applied to a product at any point of the manufacture-sale-use continuum. In contrast, competing technologies require blending of the antimicrobial in the manufacturing process. Also, if for some reason the antimicrobial layer is removed from an article, it can be reapplied by simple spraying. Other markets for the antimicrobial technology include military apparel and gear, food packaging, plastic furniture, pool toys, medical and dental instrumentation, bandages and plastic items. The antimicrobial has been tested against many of the pathogens common in healthcare settings, including staph, strep, E. coli, Pseudomonas and Acetinobacter. After just a single application, no bacterial growth was observed on the textile samples added to the culture-even after 24 hours at 37 degrees Celsius. Moreover, 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. Thin films of the new technology also can be used to change other surface properties of both cellulose- and polymer-based materials. ďIt can change a materialís optical properties-color, reflectance, absorbance and iridescence-and make it repel liquids, all without changing other properties of the material," adds Gama.
Five new US, European and Japanese companies join A*STARís Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint (ICON) to engineer marine life-inspired antimicrobial surfaces for use on medical devices and other industry applications. Taking a cue from animals like dolphins and pilot whales that are known to have anti-fouling skins, the researchers are using nanotechnology to create synthetic, chemical-free, antibacterial surfaces. The surfaces can reduce infections caused by pathogens such as S. aureus and E. coli and can be used on common plastics, medical devices, lenses and even ship hulls. Conventional methods for preventing bacterial surface attachment may use potentially harmful metal ions, nanoparticles, chemicals or UV-radiation. Nanoimprint technology, a form of nanotechnology, is a simple technique that has been developed by IMRE to make complex nanometer-sized patterns on surfaces to mimic the texture of natural surfaces. This gives the engineered material Ďnaturalí properties such as luminescence, adhesiveness, water-proofing and anti-reflectivity. The antibacterial surfaces research is ICONís second industry-themed project and will involve A*STARís Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and companies like Nypro Inc (U.S.), Hoya Corporation (Japan), Advanced Technologies and Regenerative Medicine, LLC (ATRM) (USA), NIL Technology ApS (Denmark) and Akzo Nobel (UK). This is also the first time that 3 local polytechnics, namely Singapore Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic are working with the consortium partners, under a special arrangement. The antimicrobial surfaces project will demonstrate the versatility of nanoimprinting technology and its benefits to a wide range of industries.
In the past few years, hygiene issues have been becoming more and more relevant. As population increases, it is inevitable to find a solution to reduce the problems with microbial contaminations. Bacteria, fungi and algae can be major problems in health, construction, food, and packaging industries, as per Helmut Kaiser Consultancy. Contamination problems are especially relevant in the health industry- there are a lot of cases of nosocomial infections in hospitals, which can be prevented through hygiene and disinfection. Antimicrobials can be used to control the build up and growth of bacteria in surfaces, such as plastics and other materials. The market for antimicrobial additives has been developing steadily, with the largest market share for the food and beverages industry. The highest markets for plastic additives are in the field of fire protection and antimicrobials. USA, Europe, China and other Asia Pacific countries consume about a third of the plastic additive volume, followed by other countries. The market is relatively new and will develop in the near future. Major developments and growth will be seen in China, India, and the rest of Asia. With the increasing awareness of disinfection and potential liabilities for microbes and food borne pathogens, we can also expect a high growth in the food Industry (Food and Beverages) and disinfection. In the future nanotechnology will play a more crucial role in the development of this market. With nanotechnologies, we will be able to produce particles small enough to be use effectively as plastics and polymer additives. This means that we will be able to produce plastics with different properties, with more efficient antimicrobial or fire retardant properties. The growth of nanotechnology markets will influence the whole additive markets, including antimicrobials. Antimicrobial additives and coating will experience a high growth in the future, with new innovations, research and developments in this area. Some of the applications of these antimicrobial plastics include hospitals, public facilities, furniture and food/beverage packaging.
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