Graphite nanoplatelets stop 99.99pc of bacteria on medical devices

23 Mar 2020

Image: © Андрій Пограничний/

Researchers have found a way for graphite nanoplatelets to kill nearly all bacteria on plastic medical surfaces.

In the ongoing effort to prevent the spread of infection from medical procedures – potentially exacerbated by the current outbreak of the coronavirus – researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have revealed new tech that can be used in medtech devices such as implants.

It’s estimated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control that, in an average year, more than 4m people are affected by infections contracted during procedures. Many of these are bacterial infections developing around implants, such as catheters, hip and knee prostheses or dental implants.

Now, writing in the journal Small, the Sweden-based researchers have found that inexpensive graphite nanoplatelets, mixed with a very versatile polymer, can kill 99.99pc of bacteria that attempts to attach to implants.

Reducing enormous costs

Previous studies had shown that vertical flakes of graphene placed onto an implant could form a protective coating, like spikes on a building to prevent birds from nesting. However, producing graphene flakes is expensive and not feasible for large-scale production.

While the graphite nanoplatelets aren’t typically compatible with polymer or plastic, standard plastic manufacturing techniques are enough to make them work. Crucially, the nanoplatelets do not damage healthy human cells thanks to them being around 25 times larger than bacteria.

As part of the study, the researchers experimented with different concentrations of graphite nanoplatelets and the plastic material. A composition of around 15 to 20pc graphite nanoplatelets had the greatest antibacterial effect – providing that the morphology is highly structured.

“In addition to reducing patients’ suffering and the need for antibiotics, implants like these could lead to less requirement for subsequent work, since they could remain in the body for much longer than those used today,” said postdoctoral researcher Santosh Pandit.

“Our research could also contribute to reducing the enormous costs that such infections cause healthcare services worldwide.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic