Using silver nanotechnology, QinetiQ scientists have developed a novel method of incorporating silver directly into both natural and artificial fibres to produce materials that can be used to prevent bacterial and fungal growth. The effects are anticipated to last throughout the lifetime of the fibre making it ideal for use in healthcare and consumer textile products.
The therapeutic effectiveness of silver has been well documented and the use of silver with fibre is not new. However, QinetiQ's process is expected to be more cost effective than the current practice of coating fibre with silver metal, which often results in leaching of the silver. It has already produced anti-microbial and anti-fungal effects with alginate and cellulose fibres and QinetiQ is currently working with silk and acrylic fibres (both hollow and solid). Furthermore, with this technology, there is no leaching of silver metal. The company has analysed, rigorously tested and validated fibre samples both in-house and externally with Shirley Technologies in the UK.
Anti-microbial and anti-fungal fibres halt the spread of bacteria. As well as enhancing healing in wound management, and controlling odours in shoes and clothing, there are numerous other applications. It can be applied to foams, films, hydrocolloids and hydogels, and, potentially, paints and rubbers. Equipment in hospital operating theatres, ward furniture and even door handles could be coated to stop bacteria being transferred. This would help to combat the spread of hospital acquired infections. Similarly, it could be used on public transport, furniture and working surfaces in our homes to provide a safer and cleaner environment.
This innovative technology could readily be incorporated into existing fibre manufacturing processes. QinetiQ is now looking to take it forward by establishing licensing agreements with Industry.