Jan. 19, 2011 at 9:00 PM ET
Scientists have developed a technique to coat paper with nanoparticles of silver — a combination that makes the paper lethal to bacteria such as E. coli and potentially suitable as a food packaging material.
Silver is widely used to fight bacteria, and silver nanoparticles are already found in textiles, fibers, plastics and metals for biomedical applications. The technology is used in wound dressings and microbial resistant catheters, as well as consumer products such as odor-resistant socks (and even space underwear).
Until now, scientists have been unable to deposit the particles of silver — each one-50,000 the width of a human hair — onto paper. The new method involves the use of ultrasound, or high-frequency sound waves, to anchor the particles on paper.
The technique was pioneered by a research team led by Aharon Gedanken at the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and described last month in the journal Langmuir, published by the American Chemical Society.
In laboratory tests, the so-called "killer paper" showed lethal antibacterial activity against E. coli and S. aureus, two causes of bacterial food poisoning, "suggesting its potential application as a food packaging material for longer shelf life," the researchers write.
In addition to food packaging, the coating method could be extended to other nanomaterials to create properties such as water resistance, various degrees of conductivity, and roughness. That "could lead to interesting applications," the researchers say.
Are you ready for your meat to come wrapped in paper coated with nanoparticles? Feel free to weigh in with a comment below.
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