A group of scientists at the University of Birmingham has devised a way of making surfaces made from stainless steel resistant to bacteria. The project, which was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, culminated this week.
Instead of coating copper or silver on the steel surface, researchers tried to include it in the steel itself, making it very tough and resistant to wear and tear. The technique also makes the stainless steel surfaces kill bacteria.
These surfaces are aimed to be used in hospitals in order to stop contamination and spread of bacteria. It can also be used to store medical equipment, like implants and instruments. In addition to hospital use, the surface is also aimed to be used in domestic and commercial kitchens.
Researchers have developed the Active Screen Plasma (ASP) technology, which enables the introduction of silver or copper to into the stainless steel surface, along with carbon and nitrogen. Silver acts as the bacteria killer and carbon and nitrogen makes the steel more durable.
“Previous attempts to make stainless steel resistant to bacteria have not been successful as these have involved coatings which are too soft and not hard-wearing. Thin antibacterial coatings can be easily worn down when interacting with other surfaces, which leads to a low durability of the antibacterial surface. Our technique means that we avoid coating the surface, instead we modify the top layers of the surface,” said Professor of Surface Engineering at the University of Birmingham Hanshan Dong.
Dong and his team of researchers are confident that the ASP technique could be used in making commercial stainless steel products in the future.