A consortium of five companies from Europe, the US and Japan have joined A*STAR’s Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint in order to engineer marine life-inspired anti-microbial surfaces for use in industries as diverse as medicine, maritime and photography. These high-tech surfaces can give engineered materials ‘natural’ properties such as luminescence, adhesiveness, water-proofing and anti-reflectivity. By using these skins, companies will no longer have to use harmful substitutes such as metal ions, nanoparticles, chemicals, and UV-radiation.
A*STAR’s nanoimprint technology, which is a form of nanotechnology, uses a simple technique to make complex nanometer-sized patterns on surfaces in order to mimic the texture of natural surfaces. The researchers discovered that dolphins and pilot whales are known to have anti-fouling skins, and it is this sort of surface that they hope to duplicate using this technology. Nanotech surfaces can also can reduce infections caused by pathogens such as S. aureus and E. coli and can also be used in common plastics, medical devices, lenses and even ship hulls.
Speaking about the innovative materials, Dr Low Hong Yee, IMRE’s Director for Research and Innovation and head of the consortium, said: “With millions of years of experience behind her, nature has produced some of the most rugged, adaptable life forms. Who better to learn engineering from than Mother Nature?” She also added that the anti-microbial surfaces project will demonstrate the versatility of nanoimprinting technology and its benefits to a wide range of industries.
Dr Raj Thampuran, A*STAR Science and Engineering Research Council’s (SERC) Executive Director added, “Working closely with companies ensures that our R&D and expertise is translated at the earliest possible time and contributes value to the economy. Borrowing intimately from characteristics in nature represents some of the most frontier and innovative ideas in science and engineering. I am pleased that IMRE’s research will help companies challenge difficult engineering problems”.
Lead Image © Horia Varlan