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Researchers create anti-bacterial surface coating inspired by dragonflies

SINGAPORE: The wings of dragonflies and cicadas inspired a group of researchers from A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) to invent an anti-bacterial nano-coating that could be used to disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, tables and lift buttons.

In a news release on Wednesday (Mar 28), A*STAR said that studies have shown that the wings of these insects are covered in tiny structures called nanopillars, making them look like a bed of nails. When bacteria come into contact with these surfaces, their cell membranes get ripped apart immediately and they are killed.

Inspired by these studies, a group of IBN scientists grew nanopillars of zinc oxide, a compound known for its anti-bacterial and non-toxic properties. The zinc oxide nanopillars can kill a broad range of germs like E. coli and S. aureus that are commonly transmitted from surface contact, according to A*STAR.

Their new research was recently published in the journal Small.

This technology will prove particularly useful in creating bacteria-free surfaces in places like hospitals and clinics, where sterilisation is important to help control the spread of infections, the agency said.

A*STAR noted that 80 per cent of common infections are spread by hands, and said that while disinfecting commonly touched surfaces helps to reduce the spread of harmful germs in this way, it requires manual and repeated disinfection because germs grow rapidly.

Current disinfectants may also contain chemicals like triclosan which may lead to bacterial resistance and environmental contamination if used extensively, it stated in the media release.

“There is an urgent need for a better way to disinfect surfaces without causing bacterial resistance or harm to the environment. This will help us to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases from contact with surfaces,” IBN executive director Jackie Ying said. Read More

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