Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Breakthrough: Transparent Nanostructured Copper Surfaces Offer Antimicrobial Shield for Touch Displays

Researchers have unveiled a groundbreaking solution for antimicrobial touch displays. A team led by ICREA Professor Valerio Pruneri developed transparent nanostructured copper surfaces (TANCS), offering both transparency and antimicrobial properties.

The demand for antimicrobial solutions for touch screens has surged in recent years, especially for devices like tablets and smartphones. Traditional methods like alcohol sprays or wipes are unsuitable for delicate displays. While antimicrobial coatings directly applied to glass hold promise, they must be transparent and durable.

Previous attempts using photocatalytic metal oxides faced challenges. Copper, a potent biocidal metal, has been traditionally used for objects like door handles due to its effectiveness against various microorganisms. However, copper coatings have been mostly opaque, hindering their application in transparent, antimicrobial displays.

In a significant breakthrough, researchers have developed TANCS, a transparent nanostructured copper surface. Led by ICREA Professor Valerio Pruneri, the team successfully created a non-conductive, antimicrobial copper surface. The study, published in Communications Materials, details the innovative approach taken by researchers, including Christina Graham and Alessia Mezzadrelli from ICFO, along with their colleagues from Corning.

The fabrication process involves depositing an ultra-thin copper film onto a glass substrate and then using a rapid thermal annealing process to form dewetted copper nanoparticles. These nanoparticles provide antimicrobial properties, transparency, color neutrality, and electrical insulation. Additional layers of SiO2 and fluorosilanes are deposited on top to enhance environmental protection and durability.

The research team examined the coating’s morphology, optical response, antimicrobial efficacy, and mechanical durability. TANCS proved highly effective, eliminating over 99.9% of Staphylococcus aureus within two hours of exposure. Additionally, it maintains optical transparency, allowing 70–80% light transmission in the visible range. Even after rigorous testing, including wipe-testing procedures, the surfaces retained their antimicrobial activity.

“This is a significant step towards creating antimicrobial touch screens for public or personal displays,” said Prantik Mazumder, a researcher at Corning and co-author of the study.

The introduction of transparent antimicrobial surfaces marks a significant advancement in the realm of touchable displays. Though further development is required for commercial deployment, this breakthrough brings us closer to safer, more hygienic touch screen technologies.

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