Anti-pathogenic refractory material

Materials World magazine
1 Jun 2009
Surfaces on the London Underground may be an application area for the anti-pathogenic nanomaterial

A multifunctional nanomaterial to combat viruses, bacteria and fungi is under investigation by scientists at Intrinsiq Materials, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.

They are using a high temperature refractory material in the 20-50nm-particle range and are exploring its application within and on the surface of products such as disposable medical devices, filtration media, facemasks and hygienic surfaces. The product portfolio also includes a solely anti-viral substance, based on the nanomaterial.

The rate of killing viruses such as avian flu (H5N1) is said to be more than 1,000 times better than competitors, while the company claims that 100 times more bacteria, such as E.Coli, is stamped out in five minutes.

The work stems from research that was initially conducted as part of a UK consortium called the Anti-Viral Nanomaterial Programme (AVNP), which ended in April 2008.

Sean Smith, Director of Business Development at Intrinsiq Materials, explains, ‘There was a period [when] every nanomaterial manufacturer focused on the anti-microbial market. Because it was a crowded field, we targetted anti-virals. It was important that our technology differentiated itself from the nanosilver-type materials’. Research then moved on to making the particles active against bacteria and fungi as well.

The use of high temperature refractory materials, says the team, is unusual, and so they are tightlipped about the exact composition. Within AVNP, researchers ‘ran through assay tests on a range of nanomaterials against H5N1. One of them was a real surprise to us’, says Dr Paul Reip, Director of Government and Strategic Programmes at Intrinsiq. ‘We found something that had an oppressive level of effectiveness but was off everyone else’s radar.’

Testing by the UK’s NANORISK Group, which comprises the Natural History Museum in London, UK, has revealed that the material is ‘relatively’ benign. ‘How benign it is belies how effective it is,’ says Reip.

Research is now ongoing with industry partners to understand how to incorporate the nanoproducts into items using a range of coating and materials processing techniques.

Smith says, ‘Testing in suspensions of organisms is a starting point, but it says nothing about whether you can make a functional [end product]. It is difficult to [keep] it active.

‘The key is to get adequate dispersion and make sure the [nanoparticles] are bioavailable in the article. Microscale agglomerates [are] not what creates the functionality.’

The nanoparticles themselves are made using in-house direct-current plasma technology, which has been scaled up to multikilo quantities.

‘We would expect to see products hitting the market in about two years,’ says Smith.

Further information: Intrinsiq Materials