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Inventor Jason Locklin is surrounded by his project team; (left) Vikram Dhende, graduate student, and (right) Ian Hardin, a professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. (DTI/Photo courtesy of UGA) .
Jul 25, 2011 | News USA

New technology makes textiles permanently germ free

by Dental Tribune

ATHENS, Ga., USA: A University of Georgia researcher has invented a new technology that renders medical linens and clothing, face masks, paper towels and diapers permanently germ free. The simple and inexpensive antimicrobial technology works on natural and synthetic materials and can be applied during the manufacturing process or at home.

“The spread of pathogens on textiles and plastics is a growing concern, especially in healthcare facilities and hotels, which are ideal environments for the proliferation and spread of very harmful microorganisms, but also in the home,” said Jason Locklin, the inventor of the new technology and Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, as well as in the Faculty of Engineering.

According to Locklin, the new antimicrobial technology was tested on many of the pathogens common in healthcare settings, including staph., strep., E. coli, pseudomonas and acinetobacter. After just a single application, no bacterial growth was observed on the textile samples added to the culture—even after 24 hours at 99 F (37 C).

Moreover, in testing, the treatment remained fully active after multiple hot water laundry cycles, demonstrating that the antibacterial substance does not leach out from the textiles even under harsh conditions. “Leaching could hinder the applicability of this technology in certain industrial segments, such as food packaging, toys, I.V. bags and tubing, for example,” said Gennaro Gama, University of Georgia Research Foundation (UGARF) senior technology manager.

The antimicrobial treatment, which is available for licensing from the UGARF, effectively kills a wide spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause disease, break down fabrics, create stains, and produce odors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a healthcare-associated infection. Lab coats, scrub suits, uniforms, gowns, gloves and linens are known to harbor the microbes that cause patient infections.

Consumers’ concern about harmful microbes has driven the market for clothing, undergarments, footwear and home textiles with antimicrobial properties. But to be practical, both commercial and consumer antimicrobial products must be inexpensive and lasting.

“Similar technologies are limited by cost of materials, use of noxious chemicals in the application or loss of effectiveness after a few washings,” said Gama. “Locklin’s technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry.”

Gama said the technology is simple to apply in the manufacturing of fibers, fabrics, filters and plastics. It also can bestow antimicrobial properties on finished products, such as athletic wear and shoes, and textiles for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

“The advantage of UGARF’s technology over competing methods,” said Gama, “is that the permanent antimicrobial can be applied to a product at any point of the manufacture-sale-use continuum. In contrast, competing technologies require blending of the antimicrobial in the manufacturing process.”
“In addition,” said Gama, “If for some reason the antimicrobial layer is removed from an article—through abrasion, for example—it can be reapplied by simple spraying.”

Other markets for the antimicrobial technology include medical and dental instrumentation, military apparel and gear, food packaging, plastic furniture, pool toys, bandages and plastic items.

Thin films of the new substance also can be used to change other surface properties of both cellulose- and polymer-based materials. “It can change a material’s optical properties—color, reflectance, absorbance and iridescence—and make it repel liquids, all without changing other properties of the material,” said Gama.

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