Scientists at Russia’s Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) jointly with their overseas colleagues have developed a coating which reduces the biofouling of metals in water and other biological environments by 100-fold. The coating also allows medical implants to be longer lasting and safer.
Biofouling is the accumulation of undesirable deposits on metal surfaces submerged into a biological environment. It is caused by microorganism activity that reduces functional properties of metal and may lead to its destruction. The problem is relevant for many areas, in particular marine vessels as well as medical implant devices.
According to the scientists, the conventional solution is to apply properties that prevent microorganisms from settling on the surface. For example, titanium dioxide is frequently used. However, it is expensive and not effective in all cases.
The TPU scientists looked for a cheaper means, which would also allow for reducing the activity of biofouling. “Using cations, we combined bulk soft alginate films, which were obtained from brown algae (Phaeophyceae) with calcium and copper in different proportions. Moreover, we also researched the impact of strength of the film properties and their wettability with water and oil on the amount of settled microscopic life forms,” Sergey Tverdokhlebov, Associate Professor of the TPU Weinberg Research Center, tells journalists of the RIA Novosti news agency.
It is higher than indexes of titanium dioxide by several folds. The solution is designed to fight against pathogenic microbial flora on the surface of medical implants and is also applicable for other devices.
According to the scientists, the structure of the film surface of copper alginate prevents attaching bacteria, microalgae and other organisms for which copper is toxic. Varying the volume of this metal in the film makes it possible to customize the construction for operation in a specific environment, taking into account its particular bioactivity.
“In the long run, such films can be introduced in both shipbuilding and targeted drug delivery while attaching required drug compounds to the film before implantation,” said Dr. Tverdokhlebov. “It will allow reduced drug load to the organism and impeding contagion.”
The research was conducted jointly with experts of Harbin Institute of Technology (China). The findings were published in the Applied Surface Science journal (IF: 6,707, Q1).
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