Nanotextured surface against bacteria in stainless steel

Nanotextured surface stainless steel modifies the steel itself. By using an electrochemical etching process on a common stainless steel alloy, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a nanotextured surface that kills bacteria while not harming mammalian cells.

The process could potentially be used to attack microbial contamination on implantable medical devices and on food processing equipment made with the metal. While the specific mechanism by which the nanotextured material kills bacteria requires further study, the researchers believe tiny spikes and other nano-protrusions created on the surface puncture bacterial membranes to kill the bugs. The surface structures don’t appear to have a similar effect on mammalian cells, which are an order of magnitude larger than the bacteria.

Nanotextured surface stainless steel modifies the steel itself, that should be a permanent change to the material. The steel appears to improve corrosion resistance. The research was reported December 12 in the journal ACS Biomaterials

Surface modification

Julie Champion, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering stated: “We are actually modifying the steel itself, that should be a permanent change to the material.”

The researchers were surprised that the treated surface killed bacteria. And because the process appears to rely on a biophysical rather than chemical process, the bugs shouldn’t be able to develop resistance to it. A second major potential application for the surface modification technique is food processing equipment. There, the surface treatment should prevent bacteria from adhering, enhancing existing sterilization techniques.

The researchers used samples of stainless as 316L, treating the surface with an electrochemical process in which current was applied to the metal surfaces while they were submerged in a nitric acid etching solution.

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