New non-stick surface has potential in food industry

E. coli

E. coli

In a similar way that Teflon and other non-stick surfaces keeps food from sticking to your pots and pans, a new nanotechnology developed by scientists at Cornell University could keep bacteria from sticking to medical equipment, food processing machinery and much more.

According to an article from CBS News, researchers from Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute used a process called anodization, where metal is treated with chemicals and hit with an electric current in order to change the properties of its surface and create a piece of bacteria-resistant aluminum.

This process forms what is known as alumina, a layer of nanoscale pores that are thousands of times smaller than the width of a piece of paper and prevents E. coli and Listeria bacteria from attaching to it.

Lead researcher on the project, Carmen Moraru said in the article that anodized metals could be used to prevent adhesive buildups of bacteria in biomedical clean rooms, on equipment parts that are hard to reach or clean, and even on cargo ships to keep their hulls free of algae. One of the most obvious applications however, is in food processing, where microbial outbreaks can make thousands sick and the use of antibacterial agents is limited to those which will not affect or get into the food itself.

“It’s probably one of the lowest-cost possibilities to manufacture a nanostructure on a metallic surface,” Moraru said. “The food industry makes products with low profit margins. Unless a technology is affordable it doesn’t stand the chance of being practically applied.”

The study was published in the journal Biofouling and researchers now hope to find other metals that can be used for this purpose and plan to investigate this “repulsive effect” on additional bacteria.

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