RMIT University has developed a new copper surface with a unique structure. It destroys Staphylococcus aureus.

New copper surface that kills bacteria 100 times faster and more efficiently than conventional copper. The authors of the development are confident that it will help fight the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The copper product is the result of a joint research project between RMIT University and Australian national science agency CSIRO, the results of which have just been published in Biomaterials.

Copper has long been used to combat various strains of bacteria, including the commonly encountered Staphylococcus aureus. The fact is that the ions released from the metal surface are toxic to bacterial cells. But this process is very slow when using standard copper. Researchers around the world are making significant efforts to accelerate it.

The unique porous structure of copper is the key to its effectiveness as a rapid bacteria killer. To make the alloy, a special copper mold casting process was used, in which copper and manganese atoms were collected in specific formations. The scientists then removed the manganese atoms from the alloy, leaving tiny microscale and nanoscale cavities on the surface of pure copper. This pattern makes the surface superhydrophilic, so the water lies on it in the form of a flat film, not drops. This not only causes structural degradation of bacterial cells, making them more vulnerable to copper ions, but also facilitates their absorption by bacterial cells.

A standard copper surface will kill about 97% of Staphylococcus aureus within four hours. When scientists placed bacteria on a specially designed copper surface, it destroyed more than 99.99% of the cells in just two minutes. The copper surface turned out to be not only more efficient but also 120 times faster.