Protecting the Fabric of Our Lives with Silver
Currency, jewelry, and high-quality cutlery are some of the better-known uses for silver. Now, an older use as a germ-fighting agent that dates back more than 100 years is getting a new technological spin.
ARS researchers in New Orleans, LA, have created silver nanoparticles whose antimicrobial properties can be passed directly into the cotton fibers that make up fabrics and textiles. The standard approach has been to grow the nanoparticles—about 1 to 100 nanometers in diameter—in a bulk chemical solution. These were then coated onto the surface of the fibers. The problem was that the silver nanoparticles eventually washed off with repeated laundering cycles, losing their value as germ fighters.
The new ARS method gets around this problem by growing the nanoparticles directly inside the fibers. There, they slowly release silver ions that kill more than 600 kinds of bacteria. In trials, the nanoparticle-fortified fibers kept socking it to germs even after 50 home-laundering cycles.
The advance has breathed new life into a wide range of potential applications—from wound and burn dressings, to undergarments, shoe liners, upholstery, and bedding.