Duke University engineers have developed a material that can be applied like paint to the hull of a ship and will literally be able to dislodge bacteria, keeping it from accumulating on the ship's surface. This buildup on ships increases drag and reduces the energy efficiency of the vessel, as well as blocking or clogging undersea sensors.
This is an artist's illustration of a surface repelling biofilms. Credit: Phanindhar Shivapooja and Qiming Wang
The material works by physically moving at the microscopic level, knocking the bacteria away. This avoids the use of bacteria-killing paints, which can contain heavy metals or other toxic chemicals that might accumulate in the environment and unintentionally harm fish or other marine organisms.
The Duke researchers also say that similar types of materials could be used in other settings where the buildup of bacteria – known as biofilms -- presents problems, such as on the surfaces of artificial joint implants or water purification membranes.
"We have developed a material that 'wrinkles,' or changes it surface in response to a stimulus, such as stretching or pressure or electricity," said Duke engineer Xuanhe Zhao, assistant professor in Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "This deformation can effectively detach biofilms and other organisms that have accumulated on the surface."
The results of the Duke studies were published online in the journal Advanced Materials.
Zhao has already demonstrated the ability of electric current to deform, or change, the surface of polymers.
"Nature has offered many solutions to deal with this buildup of biological materials that we as engineers can try to recreate," said Gabriel López, professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and materials science. He also serves as director of Research Triangle Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), which is funded by the National Science Foundation.
"For example, the hair-like structures known as cilia can move foreign particles from the lungs and respiratory tract," Lopez said. "In the same manner, these types of structures are used by mollusks and corals to keep their surfaces clean. To date, however, it is been difficult to reproduce the cilia, but controlling the surface of a material could achieve the same result."
The researchers tested their approach in the laboratory with simulated seawater, as well as on barnacles. These experiments were conducted in collaboration with Daniel Rittschof the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C.
Keeping bacteria from attaching to ship hulls or other submerged objects can prevent a larger cascade of events that can reduce performance or efficiency. Once they have taken up residence on a surface, bacteria often attract larger organisms, such as seaweed and larva of other marine organisms, such as worms, bivalves, barnacles or mussels.
"It is known that bacterial films can recruit other organisms, so stopping the accumulation process from the beginning in the first place would make a lot of sense," Lopez said.
The project is funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the MRSEC. Other members of the Duke team are Phanindhar Shivapooja, Qiming Wang and Beatriz Orihuela.
Richard Merritt | EurekAlert!
Hidden talents: Converting heat into electricity with pencil and paper
20.02.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie
Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons
19.02.2018 | Elhuyar Fundazioa
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
20.02.2018 | Life Sciences
20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering
20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy