Skip to Content

Bacteria-Busting Surface

The age of chemical warfare against bacteria could soon end. Biologist Kim Lewis of Northeastern University and chemist Alexander Klibanov of MIT teamed up to create an environmentally friendly surface that stays sterile. The surface, which can be applied to virtually any material-including glass, metal, plastic or wood-consists of microscopic polymer bristles. Any bacterium landing on the surface is killed; the polymer spikes poke holes in the microbe’s membrane, and the cell’s contents squirt out. Although chemical biocides can create resistant bacteria, Lewis and Klibanov’s technique attacks such a fundamental constituent of bacteria-the membrane-that species are unlikely to develop a defense against it. The researchers plan to start a company or partner with an existing one to develop the material. They foresee applications ranging from toys to public telephones to drinking-water pipes.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station
Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

Most public health bodies dealing with covid have long since moved on from the idea of surface transmission. China’s didn’t—and that helps it control the narrative about the disease’s origins and danger.

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.