Australia’s RMIT University is excited by the prospects of a surface that kills bacteria on its own, without any antiseptics being applied – a new form of copper that can eliminate even antibiotic-resistant germs 120 times faster than ordinary copper (which also kills germs on its own):
Copper has long been used to fight different strains of bacteria, including the commonly found golden staph, because the ions released from the metal’s surface are toxic to bacterial cells.
But this process is slow when standard copper is used, as RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Ma Qian explained, and significant efforts are underway by researchers worldwide to speed it up.
“A standard copper surface will kill about 97% of golden staph within four hours,” Qian said.
“Incredibly, when we placed golden staph bacteria on our specially-designed copper surface, it destroyed more than 99.99% of the cells in just two minutes.”
The team is now looking to investigate the enhanced copper’s effectiveness against SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including assessing 3D-printed samples.
Other studies suggest copper may be highly effective against the virus, leading the US Environmental Protection Agency to officially approve copper surfaces for antiviral uses earlier this year.
A special copper mould casting process was used to make the alloy, arranging copper and manganese atoms into specific formations.
The manganese atoms were then removed from the alloy using a cheap and scalable chemical process called “dealloying”, leaving pure copper full of tiny microscale and nanoscale cavities in its surface.
You can read more about the team’s research here, in Biomaterials.