Image: According to a new study, copper-coated hospital uniforms could reduce pathogen transfer in hospitals (Photo courtesy of University of Manchester).
Tethering copper (Cu) nanoparticles to wearable materials such as cotton and polyester could help reduce the spread of bacterial infections and viruses, claims a new study.
Researchers at the University of Manchester (United Kingdom), Southwest University (Chongqing, China), and other institutions conducted an experimental study that applied antibacterial copper nanoparticles coatings onto cotton and polymer substrates using atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) and electroless deposition (ELD) processes. The researchers used polymer brushes in order to continuously and uniformly distribute the Cu nanoparticles onto the fiber surfaces of the substrate.
The results showed that the composite materials possessed excellent antibacterial properties, even after 30 cycles of washing, as a result of the strong bridged-deposited interfacial force created between the antibacterial copper coatings and the substrates by the polymer brushes. Compared with copper coating using traditional processes, the polymer brush coating process showed longer releasing effectiveness and higher releasing concentration, which was attributed to the free-standing copper nanoparticles. The study was published on January 29, 2018, in Journal of Nanomaterials.
“Now that our composite materials present excellent antibacterial properties and durability, it has huge potential for modern medical and healthcare applications. These results are very positive, and some companies are already showing interest in developing this technology,” said senior author Xuqing Liu, PhD, of the University of Manchester School of Materials. “We hope we can commercialize the advanced technology within a couple of years. We have now started to work on reducing cost and making the process even simpler.”
Precious metals such as gold and silver have excellent antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, but their commercial use in textiles is prohibitive due to extremely high costs. As a result, material chemists are focusing their attentions on exploring the possibility of using copper as the ultimate antimicrobial agent. But techniques for binding copper to materials like cotton for medical and antimicrobial textile production had limitations. Now, using polymer surface grafting, copper nanoparticles can be joined to cotton and polyester using a polymer brush to create a strong chemical bond.
University of Manchester