Purdue University researchers have discovered a laser treatment to texture metals that can potentially transform almost any metal surface into one that quickly eliminates any bacteria that come into contact with it. The study, published in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces in April 2020, could help break transmission chains of common superbugs and cut down the number of infections that result from indirect spread through such surfaces.

Why is surface disinfection important?

Bacteria are responsible for many of the illnesses that make our lives difficult – salmonella, boils, and syphilis are only a few of the myriad types of harm that bacteria can cause to our bodies. One of the annoying things about bacteria is that most of them can survive on metal surfaces for long periods of time. Add that to the fact that most of the things we touch most frequently – doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, car keys – are made of metal, and you have a host of potential pathogens waiting to hop on to your skin.

The new process might change all that, transmuting metals from friendly hangout zones to killing fields for bacteria. It works by using a laser to alter the surface texture of the metal. Copper, for example, is often used as a naturally antimicrobial material; however, it takes hours to kill most bacteria on its surface. But with Purdue University’s treatment, the number of bacteria that come in contact and die instantly speeds up dramatically, making it clinically useful.

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