New Plastic Wrap Repels Bacteria
Jeffrey Heimgartner posted on January 03, 2020 |
Researchers have developed a flexible, self-cleaning plastic that repels bacteria.

With a recent surge of food recalls, especially lettuce, and an always present concern needed for health care-associated infections, taking on harmful bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and antibiotic-resistant bacteria is keeping researchers on their toes. A team from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, focused on stopping bacteria spreading from surfaces to humans, resulting in a new flexible plastic that repels all types of bacteria.

The increasing number of drug-resistant bacteria inspired the researchers to develop a versatile protective covering that could be used in health care, the food industry and home settings, as well as other industries in which repelling bacteria, water or other liquids could be beneficial.

Bacteria bounces off a new flexible wrap, potentially eliminating the accidental spread of harmful bacterium like E. coli, salmonella and listeria. (Image courtesy of Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University.)
Bacteria bounces off a new flexible wrap, potentially eliminating the accidental spread of harmful bacterium like E. coli, salmonella and listeria. (Image courtesy of Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University.)

Taking inspiration from the lotus leaf, a water-repellant and self-cleaning plant, the team’s plastic wrap features a nanoscale surface that is textured with microscopic wrinkles but which lacks external molecules. The result is a surface that moisture and bacteria bounce away from upon contact.

“We’re structurally tuning that plastic,” said Leyla Soleymani, the study’s lead engineer. “This material gives us something that can be applied to all kinds of things.”

To further reinforce its repellant properties, the team chemically treated the plastic, enhancing the material to provide a range of liquid repellency that is scalable and versatile. It can be used as a bacteria-resistant cover on various complex objects, including being shrink-wrapped on IV stands, door handles and railings, as well as used for food packaging.

“We can see this technology being used in all kinds of institutional and domestic settings,” said engineer Tohid Didar. “As the world confronts the crisis of antimicrobial resistance, we hope it will become an important part of the antibacterial toolbox.”

To test the material, the team collaborated with McMaster’s Institute for Infectious Disease Research. Using two highly antibiotic-resistant bacteria, MRSA and Pseudomonas, the researchers verified its effectiveness via electron microscope images that demonstrated no bacteria was transferred to the innovative surface.


The innovative barrier has also proven to be durable and cost-effective to produce. The team hopes to soon collaborate with others on developing commercial applications for the material.

Interested in more innovations that could minimize illnesses? Check out Algae Filter Paper Offers New Hope for Stopping Waterborne Illness and New Material Disinfects With UV Light.


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