MAR 26, 2024 10:10 AM PDT

Nanospikes: A Novel Approach to Virus-Killing Surfaces

What non-invasive methods can be developed to kill viruses on site? This is what a recent study published in ACS Nano hopes to address as a team of international researchers have developed a silicon surface containing nanospikes capable of preventing viruses from replicating or killing them entirely. This study holds the potential to help develop a passive way of mitigating the spread of viruses within a myriad of environments, including scientific laboratories and healthcare facilities.

“Our virus-killing surface looks like a flat black mirror to the naked eye but actually has tiny spikes designed specifically to kill viruses,” said Dr. Natalie Borg, who is a senior lecturer in the STEM | Health and Biomedical Sciences at RIMT University and a co-author on the study. “This material can be incorporated into commonly touched devices and surfaces to prevent viral spread and reduce the use of disinfectants.” 

For the study, researchers at the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication took inspiration from insects, some of which possess their own version of nanospikes on their wings that can damage fungi and bacteria. To produce the nanospikes, the team blasted smooth silicon wafers with ions, resulting in nanospikes measuring 290 nanometers in height and 2 nanometers thick, the latter of which is 30,000 times thinner than a human hair. They then tested their new material on the hPIV-3 virus, which is responsible for causing pneumonia and bronchitis, finding their nanospikes exhibited a 96 percent success rate in either preventing the virus from replicating or shredding them to pieces completely.

Image of a virus cell magnified 65,000 times on the nano-spiked silicon wafer whose material is leaking after 1 hour. (Credit: RMIT)

Image of a virus cell magnified 65,000 times that has experienced complete destruction after 6 hours on the nano-spiked silicon wafer. (Credit: RMIT)

“Implementing this cutting-edge technology in high-risk environments like laboratories or healthcare facilities, where exposure to hazardous biological materials is a concern, could significantly bolster containment measures against infectious diseases,” said Samson Mah, who is a PhD Candidate at RMIT and lead author of the study. “By doing so, we aim to create safer environments for researchers, healthcare professionals, and patients alike.”  

What new discoveries will researchers make regarding stopping viruses with nanospikes in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: ACS Nano, EurekAlert!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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