By Gary Thomas
A group of Harvard researchers has created an immobilized liquid film called Slippery-Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) to avoid the formation of biofilms on a surface by the troublesome bacterial colonies.
The SLIPS technology for preventing biofilm formation, as compared to a Teflon-coated surface (courtesy of Joanna Aizenberg & Tak-Sing Wong)
This liquid-infused structured surface fools bacterial communities into thinking that they had no solid surface to attach and grow. The researchers have described their immobilized liquid film coating in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. SLIPS effectively forms a smooth and slippery hybrid surface, thanks to the infused immobilized liquid layer.
The researchers demonstrated that SLIPS achieved a 96% to 99% reduction in the formation of three harmful disease-causing biofilms, namely Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, over a seven-day period.
SLIPS is readily scalable, nontoxic and self-cleaning. A gentle liquid flow is enough to keep the immobilized liquid film clean. The researchers demonstrated the coating in a broad range of solids and liquids, which include ice, oil and blood, and converted everything to slip off surfaces.
SLIPS works well in natural conditions, static environment and under flow, making it suitable to coat implanted medical devices that interplay with bodily fluids. The coated surfaces are also able to fight against bacterial growth in conditions with high salinity, powerful ultraviolet light, and extreme pH levels.
Hitherto, the Harvard research team may be the first to successfully demonstrate a nontoxic synthetic surface that is capable of completely preventing biofilm formation over a prolonged period of time. This technology holds potential in consumer products, industrial, medical and settings.
The research team’s next step is to explore the mechanisms that prevent biofilm formation. Specifically, they want to know whether any bacteria briefly bond to the interface before slipping off, whether they merely float over the surface, or whether any individuals can stay loosely attached.