Laser-Induced Graphene Filter Traps and Terminates Bacteria

Seen in an electron microscope picture, micron-scale sheets of graphene created at Rice College kind a two-layer air filter that traps pathogens and then kills them with a modest burst of electrical energy. Credit score: Tour Group/Rice College

Airborne micro organism may even see what appears to be like like a comfortable shag carpet on which to settle. Nevertheless it’s a lure.

Rice College scientists have remodeled their laser-induced graphene (LIG) into self-sterilizing filters that seize pathogens out of the air and kill them with small pulses of electrical energy.

The versatile filter developed by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour could also be of particular curiosity to hospitals. In response to the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, sufferers have a 1-in-31 likelihood of buying a doubtlessly antibiotic-resistant an infection throughout hospitalization.

The system described within the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano captures micro organism, fungi, spores, prions, endotoxins and different organic contaminants carried by droplets, aerosols and particulate matter.

The self-sterilizing laser-induced graphene air filters created at Rice College present potential to be used in hospitals. The filters lure airborne micro organism and different pathogens and then get rid of them via Joule heating of the conductive materials. Credit score: Tour Group/Rice College

The filter then prevents the microbes and different contaminants from proliferating by periodically heating as much as 350 levels Celsius (662 levels Fahrenheit), sufficient to obliterate pathogens and their poisonous byproducts. The filter requires little energy, and heats and cools inside seconds.

LIG is a conductive foam of pure, atomically skinny carbon sheets synthesized via heating the floor of a standard polyimide sheet with an industrial laser cutter. The method found by Tour’s lab in 2014 has led to a spread of purposes for electronics, triboelectric nanogenerators, composites, electrocatalysis, and even artwork.

Adapting it to be used as a filter meant laser-building graphene into either side of the polyimide, leaving a advantageous, three-dimensional lattice of the polymer to strengthen the graphene foam. Laser-building at totally different temperatures resulted in a thick forest of graphene fibers with smaller, interconnected sheets beneath.

Like all pure graphene, the froth conducts electrical energy. When electrified, Joule heating raises the filter’s temperature above 300 C, sufficient to not solely kill trapped pathogens but in addition to decompose poisonous byproducts that may feed new microorganisms and activate the human immune system.

The researchers prompt a single, custom-fit LIG filter might be environment friendly sufficient to exchange the 2 filter beds at the moment required by federal requirements for hospital air flow programs.

“So many sufferers turn out to be contaminated by micro organism and their metabolic merchandise, which for instance may end up in sepsis whereas within the hospital,” Tour mentioned. “We’d like extra strategies to fight the airborne switch of not simply micro organism but in addition their downstream merchandise, which may trigger extreme reactions amongst sufferers.

“A few of these merchandise, like endotoxins, must be uncovered to temperatures of 300 levels Celsius in an effort to deactivate them,” a objective served by the LIG filter, he mentioned. “This might considerably reduce the switch of bacteria-generated molecules between sufferers, and thereby decrease the last word prices of affected person stays and reduce illness and loss of life from these pathogens.”

The lab examined LIG filters with a business vacuum filtration system, pulling air via at a charge of 10 liters per minute for 90 hours, and discovered that Joule heating efficiently sanitized the filters of all pathogens and byproducts. Incubating used filters for an extra 130 hours revealed no subsequent bacterial development on the heated items, not like management LIG filters that had not been heated.

“Bacteria culturing experiments carried out on a membrane downstream from the LIG filter indicated that micro organism are unable to permeate the LIG filter,” mentioned Rice sophomore John Li, co-lead creator of the paper with postdoctoral researcher Michael Stanford.

Stanford famous the sterilization characteristic “could cut back the frequency with which LIG filters would must be changed compared to conventional filters.”

Tour prompt LIG air filters might additionally discover their method into business plane.

“It’s been predicted that by the yr 2050, 10 million folks per yr will die of drug-resistant micro organism,” he mentioned. “The world has lengthy wanted some method to mitigate the airborne switch of pathogens and their associated deleterious merchandise. This LIG air filter might be an vital piece in that protection.”


Co-authors of the paper are Rice graduate college students Yuda Chen and Emily McHugh; Anton Liopo, an instructional customer at Rice and a science analysis specialist at Texas A&M Well being Science Heart; and Han Xiao, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Younger Investigator and an assistant professor of chemistry at Rice. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry in addition to a professor of pc science and of supplies science and nanoengineering at Rice.

The Air Power Workplace of Scientific Analysis supported the analysis.

Reference: “Self-Sterilizing Laser-Induced Graphene Bacterial Air Filter” by Michael G. Stanford, John T. Li, Yuda Chen, Emily A. McHugh, Anton Liopo, Han Xiao and James M. Tour, 27 September 2019, ACS Nano.
DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.9b05983
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