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Black Silicon – The Nanomaterial That Eliminates Germs From Kitchen Counters

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ku-xlargeScientists from around the world are continuously trying to find a solution to the increasing problem of pollution. This being either outdoor or indoor, pollution is one of the main reasons for spreading of viruses, chronic diseases and cancer.

It looks like quite a large portion of scientific research focuses on the big picture- global air pollution, fresh water contamination, chemical leaching from mining and agriculture. But indoor pollution is just as dangerous, especially because particles and residue stick to walls and surfaces, providing the perfect medium for development of viruses and bacteria. A team of Australian researchers, however, have discovered unique antibacterial properties of the well known nanomaterialblack silicon, which has little spikes that resemble the shape and function of the pillars on dragonfly’s wings.

Nanomaterials have become very popular among the scientific community for their properties to kill bacteria. Teams have developed various prototypes of technologies that purify drinking water and remove bacteria, but surprisingly little has been done in order to explore their ability to eliminate germs directly from solid surfaces, like door handles and counter tops.

Last month, however, researchers from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, published their findings from an ongoing research in the journal Nature Communications. By observing the way dragonflies¬†deal with bacteria, the team established that black silicon can do the exact same thing. The little nanostructures on the insect’s wings that kill any bacteria that attempts to settle there, are identical to the tiny spikes, characteristic for the nanomaterial, and can eliminate the microorganisms before they have even landed on the surface.

The team is highly optimistic about the potential uses of black silicon. Although it is not commercially available yet, making large scale production rather questionable, the scientists are convinced that a synthetic nanomaterial with these properties could forever eliminate not only the need for expensive disinfectants but also all bacteria that try to turn our kitchen into a cosy home.

Image (c) Wikipedia

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