The fastest growing waste in the world could soon be helping to combat hospital infections, according to scientists at the University of York in the UK.
Researchers at the University's Department of Chemistry have discovered a way of transforming the chemical compound polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA), a key element of monitors and TV's with liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, into an anti-microbial substance that destroys infections such as Escherichia coli and some strains of Staphylococcus aureus.
The York research team had earlier found a method of recovering PVA from television screens and transforming it into a substance which, due to its compatibility with the human body, could be suitable for use in tissue scaffolds that help parts of the body regenerate. It could also be used in pills and dressings that are designed to deliver drugs to particular parts of the body. These latest developments were showcased by Dr Andrew Hunt at the 14th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Washington DC on 21 June.
Dr Hunt, of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, said: "The influence of LCDs on modern society is dramatic - it is estimated that 2.5 billion LCDs are approaching the end of their life, and they are the fastest growing waste in the European Union. But we can add significant value to this waste. By heating then cooling the PVA and then dehydrating it with ethanol we can produce a high surface area mesoporous material that has great potential for use in biomedicine."
This group at York has found that they can enhance the material's anti-microbial properties by the addition of silver nanoparticles. The result is that it can destroy bacterial infections such as E.coli. Potentially, it could be used in hospital cleaning products to help to reduce infections.
The project's next steps will be to test the PVA-based substance against commercial compounds to determine relative effectiveness, and to secure approval from regulatory agencies regarding the suitability of silver nanoparticles for human health applications.