Purdue University researchers develop an anti-bacterial treatment for metal surfaces

Researchers from Purdue University have created a new laser treatment method that has the potential to turn any metal surfaces into a rapid bacteria killer by giving the surface a different texture. Researchers demonstrated in a recent study that the technique allows the surface of copper to kill off drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA immediately. The scientists say that copper has been used to kill bacteria for centuries, but typically takes hours to kill off bacteria.

The one-step laser-texturing technique that the researchers developed enhances the bacteria-killing properties of the surface of copper. The team notes that the method is not yet tailored to killing viruses such as coronavirus because they are much smaller than bacteria. The team has also begun using the same process to make other surfaces suitable to killing bacteria, including the surfaces of other metals and polymers.

Giving medical implants an antimicrobial surface could prevent the spread of infection and antibiotic resistance because there would be no need for antibiotics to kill bacteria from the surface of an implant. The technique could also apply to metallic alloys that have antimicrobial properties. The technique team developed uses a laser to create a nanoscale pattern on the surface of the metal. The patterns produce a rugged texture that increases surface area giving more opportunity for bacteria to hit the surface and rupture.

In the past, nanomaterial coatings have enhanced the antimicrobial properties of metal surfaces. However, the coatings are prone to leech off and can be toxic to the environment. The laser-texturing that the team uses has two different features. The technique improves direct contact and makes a surface more hydrophilic.

In orthopedic implants, that service would allow bone cells to more strongly attached, improving how well the implant integrates the bone. The team says that the process is simple and scalable. They believe it could be easily translated into existing medical device manufacturing processes.