According to Chae, the addition of buckyballs to treatment membranes had a two-fold effect. First, treated membranes showed less bacterial attachment than non-treated membranes. After three days, the membranes treated with buckyballs had on average 20 colony forming units, the method by which bacterial colonies are counted.
"In contrast, the number of bacterial colonies on the untreated membrane was too numerous to count," Chae said.
Chae also found that the presence of the buckyballs inhibited respiration, or the ability of the bacteria to use oxygen to fuel its activities.
"As the concentration of buckyballs increased, so did the inhibition of respiration," Chae said. "This respiratory inhibition and anti-attachment suggests that this nanoparticle may be useful as an anti-fouling agent to prevent the biofouling of membranes or other surfaces."
Gunsch said the mechanisms involved are not well-understood.
Both Gunsch and Chae believe that since buckyballs are one of the most widely used nanoparticles, additional research is needed to determine if they have any detrimental effects on the environment or to humans. This is one of many issues being studied at Duke's Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology.
"We need to figure out how resistant these coatings will be to long-term use," Gunsch said. "If they can indeed prevent fouling, they will last longer. If they slough off over time, we need to know what the effects will be."
The current experiments in the laboratory were conducted with Escherichia coli K12, a strain of the bacteria that is widely used in laboratory experiments.
"We focused on a quite specific microorganism, so the next stage of our research will to see if these nanoparticles will have the same effects on bacteria com
|Contact: Richard Merritt|