Stainless Steel Disinfects Itself

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If home decorating channels have taught us anything, it’s that stainless steel is the “gold” standard in appliances. The same holds true in commercial, medical and manufacturing machines. It’s resilient, resists corrosion, simple to maintain, and easy on the eyes. However, stainless steel absorbs bacteria easily and if not properly cleaned, countertops and appliances can harbor colonies of bacteria that lead to pathogens. 

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A report from the ACS journal Langmuir introduced a green approach to preventing bacteria from finding a cozy home on the surface of stainless steel. They developed a coating made of negatively and positively charged micelle molecules. Micelles are natural-born cleaners and, for the purposes of this project, they were doped with silver-based particles, causing an electrostatic interaction to kill bacteria. (Interesting fact: the adhesive that helps the coating stick to stainless steel is inspired by a component that mussels secrete to adhere to the sides of a ship.) 

The process of coating the steel takes about ten minutes, and because it uses water instead of harsh chemicals, it's potentially appealing to manufacturers and consumers. No word on whether this will be available for consumer products. But how cool would it be to not have to frantically wipe down the fridge handle when you accidentally touch it after handling chicken? Even though, for prevention of the “ick” factor, you might still want some wipes handy.

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