Friday, November 14, 2014

Bug killing silicons-A new strategy for disinfection

Nature has provided many clues to man in his hunger for innovation and here is another example of a new invention fashioned after the way some flies are keeping bacteria away from their body. In a recent study some Australian scientists stumbled upon the remarkable ability of some flies to destroy invading bacteria through razor sharp spikes on their wings which mechanically shred some of the rod shaped microbes that try to colonize on them. This finding led them to modify the surface of silicon using nano technology in such a way that spikes are created giving them the name black silicon as light is not reflected readily from their surface giving a black hue. The new surface was better than the wings of flies in that it could achieve a much higher kill rate against rod shaped as well as spherical shaped organisms and their spores. Here is a take on this amazing development with far reaching implications. 

"Originally discovered by accident in the 1980s, black silicon is silicon with a surface that has been modified to feature nanoscale spike structureswhich give the material very low reflectivity. Researchers have now found that these spikes can also destroy a wide range of bacteria, potentially paving the way for a new generation of antibacterial surfaces. Surface structures similar to black silicon can be found in nature. Earlier this year, researchers at the Swinburne Institute of Technology in Australia led by Professor Elena Ivanova and Professor Russell Crawford found that the wings of the cicada Psaltoda claripennis could shred certain types of rod-shaped bacteria. This prompted them to seek out other insects with similar spike-like surface architectures. They found that the wings of the Diplacodes bipunctata or Wandering Percher dragonfly were even more deadly, killing both rod-shaped and spherical bacteria."

How the black silicon development can be of significance to food industry remains to be seen. If these modified silicon material is amenable to fabrication of equipment and food contact surfaces in food processing factories use of bactericides and heating can be significantly reduced. It will also obviate the need for use of chemicals and special designs for food processing machinery for CIP provision. According to the scientists who developed black silicon, they foresee its wide application in medical industry for sterilization of surgical facilities. With implants and transplants becoming routine procedures in medical industry, application of black silicon nano particles can be of great help to cut down on hospital related pathogenic incidents and casualties,


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