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Antibacterial Nanocomposites
June 29, 2015   
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Researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Physical Chemistry in Warsaw have developed a new type of non-toxic, antibacterial nanocomposite coatings that may in the future replace antibiotics in certain applications in medicine. Such coatings can also be used in the textile industry and in the packaging of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food products.

In the future, these innovative materials are expected to help reduce the number of infections and shorten the time of hospitalization for patients. They will also help improve sportswear hygiene.

These antibacterial materials can be used to produce hydrogel dressings and scaffolds for culturing cells for tissue implants. They are composed of nanoparticles of gold.

Such nanocomposite coatings can be used not only in medicine, but also in clothing worn by athletes and soldiers. They can also be used in the food industry in the packaging of products. Nanocomposite coatings will give food packaging antibacterial properties.

According to Katarzyna Wybrańska, Ph.D., from the Institute of Physical Chemistry, antibacterial nanocomposites are not harmful to human cells, unlike many other materials and substances that are designed to destroy bacteria. Studies have shown that human cells can co-exist with and even thrive on such nanocomposites, Wybrańska says.

The coatings are harmless to human cells because—in contrast to methods such as impregnation with silver nanoparticles—the antibacterial effect of the new coatings does not involve the release of toxic substances, but is based on the direct contact of bacteria with the modified surface. The nanocomposite itself is not released from the material or the dressing, so its antibacterial effect can last longer without harming the human body. Many months of tests with the gold nanocomposite coatings, conducted on four human cell lines, have shown no harmful effects.

“Usually, what is toxic to bacteria is also harmful to us,” says Wybrańska. “Meanwhile, our nanocomposites are very friendly to human cells.”

Wybrańska is researching these “third-generation” hydrogel dressings using zl.100,000 obtained from the Foundation for Polish Science under its Impuls program.

“Hydrogel dressings applied to the wound have an immediate antibacterial effect and reduce the risk of infection,” says Wybrańska. “Problems with bacterial infections are common in clinical practice. Patients with such complications usually require hospitalization for up to two weeks longer than normally. Not only do people suffer, but also the cost associated with hospitalization runs into thousands and millions of zlotys. Dressings with our coatings could significantly reduce these problems.”

Thanks to the funds obtained from the Foundation for Polish Science, Wybrańska will be able to thoroughly investigate the physico-chemical and functional properties of nanocomposite coatings and determine how they should be used the most effectively.

The Institute of Physical Chemistry researchers have submitted several patent applications for their antibacterial coatings. Research on the coatings, carried out in collaboration with the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, was financed with a grant from the Foundation for Polish Science’s Team program. Work on commercial applications of the coatings is in progress as part of the foundation’s Impuls program.

In the project, Wybrańska is working with several researchers from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and a researcher from the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy.
Wybrańska says she is in contact with entrepreneurs and institutions interested in contributing to her project and going commercial with the results of her research. She is looking for a core investor. She showcased her innovative nanocomposite coatings at an invention exhibition in Warsaw. She also took part in a competition for enterprising women, which enabled her to present her invention to a wider group of people.
Karolina Olszewska


The breakthrough method for producing nanocomposite antibacterial coatings developed at the Institute of Physical Chemistry is universal and can be used to modify the surfaces of various materials. After modification, the materials exhibit excellent antiseptic properties, while remaining friendly to human cells. The coatings’ usefulness is not limited to medicine: they can also be used to improve the level of hygiene for everyday items of clothing such as socks, insoles, and sports underwear. They can also be used in the production of sportswear. One major advantage is that these nanocomposite coatings are produced in a fast and cost-effective process, according to the researchers.

The new antibacterial coatings are produced in solutions of boron compounds containing colloidal nanoparticles of gold. After the introduction of the agent causing polymerization, gold nanocomposites are deposited on the surface of the object immersed in the colloid within a dozen or so minutes. The link with the substrate is chemical in nature, and thus permanent. Depending on the amount of the deposited nanocomposite, the modified materials can vary in color from light pink to violet to dark navy.

Although gold is an expensive material, its nanocomposite coatings are stable and do not undergo degradation when exposed to detergents during washing. Repeated laboratory tests of the antiseptic properties of the new coatings have been carried out with the use of E. coli and Staph. Aureusbacteria bacteria. The tests have shown that after 12 hours the number of both these types of bacteria decreased by 90 percent.

The unique properties of the new coatings are expected to pave the way to interesting applications. The institute’s Marcin Fiakowski, Ph.D., says, “There is a huge demand for biomedical products with proven antiseptic properties and a lack of toxicity to human cells. Therefore, we are thinking of using our nanocomposites in the production of hydrogel dressings. Another potential area of application is related to special scaffolds used for cell and tissue culture.”
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