Researchers at Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering have produced antimicrobial coatings with potential to prevent diseases from spreading on contaminated surfaces - possibly solving a growing problem not only in hospitals but also in schools, offices, airplanes and elsewhere. The Auburn researchers mixed solutions of lysozyme, a natural product with antimicrobial properties found in egg whites and human tears, with single- walled carbon nanotubes.

"Lysozyme is used in some commercial products such as Biotene mouthwash," said Virginia Davis, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. She added, "Single-walled carbon nanotubes are among the strongest materials known to man. While they are 100 times as strong as steel, they have only one-sixth the weight."

"Disinfection generally requires rigorous cleaning with solvents that must remain wet for a given period of time to ensure that surface germs are killed," said Davis. "In contrast, we have created a surface that is inherently antimicrobial, so how long it is wet is not an issue."

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