Taking a leaf from animals like dolphins and pilot whales that are known to have anti-fouling skins, researchers from A*Star's Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint (ICON) are using nanotechnology to create synthetic, chemical-free, anti-bacterial surfaces. The surfaces can reduce infections caused by pathogens such as S. aureus and E. coli and can be used on common plastics, medical devices and more. The group says this differs from conventional methods for preventing bacterial surface attachment, which may use potentially harmful metal ions, nanoparticles, chemicals or UV-radiation.
Nanoimprint technology, a form of nanotechnology, is a simple technique that has been developed by A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) to make complex nanometer-sized patterns on surfaces to mimic the texture of natural surfaces. This gives the engineered material 'natural' properties such as luminescence, adhesiveness, water-proofing and anti-reflectivity.
The anti-bacterial surfaces research is ICON's second industry-themed project and will involve IMRE and companies such as Nypro Inc (USA), Hoya Corp. (Japan), Advanced Technologies and Regenerative Medicine, LLC (ATRM) (USA), NIL Technology ApS (Denmark) and Akzo Nobel (UK). This is also the first time that three local polytechnics, namely Singapore Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic are working with the consortium partners, under a special arrangement.
"With millions of years of experience behind her, nature has produced some of the most rugged, adaptable life forms. Who better to learn engineering from than Mother Nature?", says Dr Low Hong Yee, IMRE's director for research and innovation and head of the consortium. She added that the anti-microbial surfaces project will demonstrate the versatility of nano-imprinting technology and its benefits to a wide range of industries.
"The strong support given by industry to this second project and to the consortium is a resounding seal of approval of the research, the talent expertise, the technology and its real-world applications", said Prof Andy Hor, Executive Director of IMRE.
Dr Raj Thampuran, A*STAR Science and Engineering Research Council's (SERC) Executive Director added, "Working closely with companies ensures that our R&D and expertise is translated at the earliest possible time and contributes value to the economy. Borrowing intimately from characteristics in nature represents some of the most frontier and innovative ideas in science and engineering. I am pleased that IMRE's research will help companies challenge difficult engineering problems".