A new technique to produce bacteria resistant stainless steel surfaces has been developed by researchers from the University of Birmingham. Materials scientists have introduced copper or silver into a steel surface instead of coating it on the surface. Such surface is harder, durable,kills bacteria and provides resistance to wear and tear.
The bacteria resistant steel surfaces can have potential application in hospitals to avoid spreading of superbug infections. They could also be used in medical equipment, food industry and domestic kitchens.
Birmingham researchers have developed a breakthrough surface alloying technology with the use of Active Screen Plasma (ASP). The technology offers diffusion, back-deposition and sputtering in an integrated manner. This allows the introduction of silver, carbon and nitrogen into a steel surface. Silver serves as a bacteria killing agent, while carbon and nitrogen contribute to the hardness and durability of the steel.
Earlier, researchers have been working to create stainless steel that is resistant to bacteria. But, they were not successful as the process involved coatings, which were very soft and not resistant to wear. The development of the new technique modifies the top layers of the stainless steel surface and eliminates application of coatings. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council project has provided funding for this project.