City life can be full of sick surprises: mice, cockroaches, subway smells. But a discarded mattress with “bedbugs” written on it represents a special kind of horror. Now materials scientists think they can stop those suckers with a nano-web.
A team at Stony Brook University led by materials science and engineering professor Miriam Rafailovich created a nano-web from microfibers that are 50 times thinner than a human hair that simply stops bedbugs. This non-toxic material is also far more dense than fabrics or carpets, which are basically open doors for the nasty critters.
“The microfibers trap them by attaching to microstructures on their legs taking away their ability to move, which stops them from feeding and reproducing,” Rafailovich said in a university report about the research.
Several years back while living in Queens, I saw a discarded bedbug-ridden mattress in the apartment building atrium. The guys at the local hardware store calmed me down. They armed me with Sterifab spray and tips: pull everything away from the walls, wrap furniture legs with duct tape, sticky-side out, and get a good mattress cover. The intense paranoia paid off but my neighbors weren’t so lucky.
Back in the Stony Brook lab, the new nano-web successfully trapped live bedbugs and termites. And, unlike some chemical treatments, bedbugs can’t build up a tolerance for it — because they can’t do anything when they’re stuck. The team said they’re working with the private company Fibertrap to get the material commercialized. Here’s hoping that happens soon.
For now there is no escape from the bedbug threat, especially if you look at Orkin’s list of top bedbug cities. Nano-web or no, never let your guard down.
Credit: Joshua Hill