Pathogens found in the air and on surfaces present a massive global health challenge, threating human health and food security. With the increased prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the use of harmful chemicals in typical decontamination processes, there is a need for new technologies that are greener and more efficient.
Philip Demokritou's lab at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health has developed a nanotechnology-based approach to improving hand hygiene, helping to limit the spread of infectious diseases. Engineered Water Nanostructures (EWNS) are nano-size water particles that contain reactive oxygen species and can deliver nature-inspired antimicrobials to inactivate microorganisms on surfaces and in the air. Only pico- to nano-gram amounts of active ingredients (e.g. ROS, hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, lysozyme) are required for decontamination. Using an aerosol delivery approach, EWNS are applied as a dry deposition. Recent work has shown that a 0.5 min exposure to EWNS-based nanosanitizers reduced Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and bacteriophage MS2 by ∼3, 1, and 2 log, respectively.
This highly efficient technology has numerous impactful applications:
Surface sanitation (e.g. in hospital and clinical settings)
Food safety and food spoilage (farm, transportation and storage, retail display, home appliances)
This work was highlighted in the Harvard Gazette and has been published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, Scientific Reports, Environmental Science & Technology, and Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine