A treatment to infuse hardened metal surfaces with naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides has been developed by researchers at Purdue University.

In other words, the Purdue research team’s technology can create hard metal surfaces that kill bacteria trying to attach to it.

David Bahr, team leader and professor of materials engineering at Purdue, said this technology applies primarily to food processing and cutting surfaces, which can be especially vulnerable to bacteria growth because of the materials and surface designs.

This technology can reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood, as placing them on the same hard surface as already cooked or ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce can spread harmful bacteria.

“Our technology can help ensure that if a food processing facility was chopping salad greens, bacteria would not transfer from a contaminated surface to a cutting tool, thereby contaminating many more parts,” said Bahr. “When used in conjunction with food washing and other safe handling, this should allow fewer outbreaks of foodborne illness.”

Bahr explained that the Purdue team creates an oxidized metal surface with nanometer-wide and micrometer-deep cracks where antimicrobial peptides can be infused in these microscopic cracks with a simple wet process. The material stored in the cracks release over time, and the oxidation process also colors the material, which provides a visual indicator of the materials remaining antimicrobial resistance. The process works on stainless steel and titanium and can be used on a wide range of commercial metal alloys.

The creators are now looking for partners to commercialize their technology.

For more information on licensing this innovation, contact Dipak Narula of Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization at dnarula@prf.org.

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