A UGA researcher has invented a new technology that inexpensively renders medical linens, paper towels and clothing, such as face masks-and even diapers, intimate apparel and athletic wear-permanently germ-free.
The simple and inexpensive antimicrobial technology works on natural and synthetic materials. The technology can be applied during the manufacturing process or at home, and it doesn’t come out in the wash. Unlike other antimicrobial technologies, repeated applications are unnecessary to maintain effectiveness.
“The spread of pathogens on textiles and plastics is a growing concern, especially in health care facilities and hotels, which are ideal environments for the proliferation and spread of very harmful microorganisms, but also in the home,” said Jason Locklin, the inventor, who is an assistant professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and on the Faculty of Engineering.
The antimicrobial treatment, which is available for licensing from the UGA Research Foundation Inc., effectively kills a spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause disease, break down fabrics, create stains and produce odors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a health-care-associated infection. Consumers’ concern about harmful microbes has spurred the market for clothing, undergarments, footwear and home textiles with antimicrobial products. But to be practical, both commercial and consumer antimicrobial products must be inexpensive and lasting.
“Similar technologies are limited by cost of materials, use of noxious chemicals in the application or loss of effectiveness after a few washings,” said Gennaro Gama, UGARF senior technology manager. “Locklin’s technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry.”
The technology is simple to apply in the manufacturing of fibers, fabrics, filters and plastics. It also can bestow antimicrobial properties on finished products, such as athletic wear and shoes, and textiles for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Other markets for the antimicrobial technology include military apparel and gear, food packaging, plastic furniture, pool toys, medical and dental instrumentation, bandages and plastic items.