Liquid metal coating creates an effective antiviral, antimicrobial fabric

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An international team of researchers used liquid gallium to create an antiviral and antimicrobial coating and tested it on a range of fabrics, including face masks. The coating adhered more firmly to the fabric than some traditional metal coatings and eliminated 99% of several common pathogens in five minutes.

“Microbes can long survive on the fabrics that hospitals use for bedding, clothing, and face masks,” says Michael Dickey, co-author of an article on the work and Camille & Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University . “Metallic surface coatings such as copper or silver are powerful tools to eradicate these pathogens, but many metal particle coating technologies have problems such as non-uniformity, processing complexity, or poor adhesion.”

Dickey and colleagues from NC State, Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) in Korea, and RMIT University in Australia set out to develop a simple and inexpensive way to apply metal coatings to fabric.

First, the researchers put liquid gallium (Ga) in an ethanol solution and used sound waves – a process known as sonication – to create Ga nanoparticles. The nanoparticle solution was then spray coated onto the fabric and the Ga adhered to the fibers as the ethanol evaporated.

Then the researchers dipped the Ga-coated fabric in a copper sulfate solution, which triggered a spontaneous galvanic exchange reaction. The reaction deposits copper on the tissue, creating a coating of liquid metal copper alloy nanoparticles.

To test the coated fabric’s antimicrobial properties, the research team exposed the fabric to three common microbes: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans. These microbes grow aggressively on uncoated fabrics. The copper alloy coated tissue killed over 99% of pathogens within five minutes, which was significantly more effective than copper-coated controls only.

The team worked with Elisa Crisci, Assistant Professor of Virology at NC State, and Frank Scholle, Associate Professor of Life Sciences at NC State, to show that the coatings also work against viruses. The coatings were tested against human influenza (H1N1) and coronavirus (HCoV 229E, which belongs to the same family as SARS-CoV-2). The coatings killed the viruses after five minutes.

“Our tests show that these liquid metal copper-coated fabrics have superior antimicrobial performance compared to other copper-coated surfaces and two commercial antimicrobial face masks based on copper and silver, respectively,” said Vi Khanh Truong, Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow RMIT University, Fulbright Fellow and co-author of the study.

“This is a better way to create metal coatings on fabrics, especially for antimicrobial applications, both in terms of adhesion and antimicrobial performance,” says Ki Yoon Kwon, postdoc at SKKU and lead author of the work.

“It could also work with metals other than copper, such as silver,” says Tae-il Kim, co-author of the study and professor at the SKKU. “It’s also a simple method that should be relatively easy to scale up for mass production.”

The research appears in Advanced Materials and is supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea. Guest Fulbright Fellow Samuel Cheeseman from RMIT University also contributed to the work.

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More information:
Ki Yoon Kwon et al., A Liquid Metal Mediated Metallic Coating for antimicrobial and antiviral Fabrics, Advanced Materials (2021). DOI: 10.1002 / adma.202104298 Provided by North Carolina State University

Quote: Liquid metal coating creates effective antiviral, antimicrobial tissue (2021, September 28), accessed on December 24, 2021 from

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