A porous three-dimensional foam formulated at the University of Georgia can find multiple applications in the medical and environmental sectors. The water repellent material exhibits antimicrobial and oil-water separation properties, making it of potential use in preventing healthcare-related infections and responding to oil spills.

The coarse polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) matrix foam includes hydrophobic electrically conductive graphene nanoplatelets and hydrophobic bactericidal copper microparticles as fillers. A high capacity for separating water and other oil-based pollutants was documented in tests. Sponges composed of the material immersed in water samples containing chloroform, hydrochloric acid, oil and other organic particles absorbed organic pollutants and deactivated bacteria present in the water.

In additional tests with Escherichia coli, the foam was observed to cause a 99.9% bacterial reduction over a simple polymer. Applied to the surface of medical implants, the material could be of value in minimizing the incidence of infection by killing bacteria as well as by repelling blood and other fluids.

The researchers are preparing to incorporate the material described in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces in medical devices and demonstrate its effectiveness for this healthcare benefit.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com