Scientists Accidentally Discover Incredible Bacteria-Killing Surface

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you never had to worry about germs crawling around on your kitchen countertop? Well, thanks to a new discovery by Australian scientists, that could soon be a reality. And it doesn’t require a drop of disinfectant.

It’s called black silicon. While the material itself was discovered back in the 1990s by some Harvard guys, scientists only recently stumbled across its antibacterial properties after studying the wings of cicadas and dragonflies. They discovered that nanostructures shaped like little pillars on the wings effectively shreds and kills any bacteria that tried to settle there. With spikes that are just 500 nanometers high, black silicon (pictured above) has the same property. Bacteria literally can’t land on the surface without being destroyed by the spikes.

Now for the potential downside. While useful for camera sensors and solar cells, black silicon hasn’t really been commercialized, so we don’t know how expensive it would be to produce it on a large enough scale to replace kitchen countertops across the nation. The scientists who discovered black silicon’s antibacterial properties are optimistic that they can produce synthetic nano-materials that will have the same effect. Now if they could only figure out an easy solution to our antibiotic problem. Via Scientists Accidentally Discover Incredible Bacteria-Killing Surface.

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3 Responses to Scientists Accidentally Discover Incredible Bacteria-Killing Surface

  1. Naan Glozi says:

    We have known about other materials with the same effect for years but for some reason ignore this knowledge. This is a paragraph from wiki;-
    “The oligodynamic effect was discovered in 1893 as a toxic effect of metal ions on living cells, algae, molds, spores, fungi, viruses, prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, even in relatively low concentrations. This antimicrobial effect is shown by ions of copper as well as mercury, silver, iron, lead, zinc, bismuth, gold, and aluminium.”
    We used to use copper for cooking utensils, you only have to look in your local pub to find them. I think it was discovered way earlier when we used to make and use copper tools. They needed sharpening quite often and they must have noticed that local infections were healed when covered in copper grinds. One of the few metals that do not show this effect is stainless steel and yet our laws insist that we use it in areas of food preparation.

    • Deskarati says:

      Very interesting, Naan. Although I think that this latest discovery is not a biochemical reaction like the oligodynamic effect, it’s more like a physical shedding of the bacteria somehow.

  2. Naan Glozi says:

    Yes, it’s surface is made from needles that are up to 10µm long by 1µm in diameter. The surface kills bacteria by puncturing their cell membranes. These needles absorbe more light than normal silicon surfaces and it reflects far less. A little like the stealth idea. As it reflects less light than normal they call it black silicon. They are also looking into making more efficient solar cells from it as well.

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