Synthetic rubber kills germs on contact

Worley's technology introduces a chemical structure called an N-halamine into the polystyrene molecules (which provide rigidity) present in a variety of synthetic rubber materials. N-halamines contain a receptor that binds chlorine atoms. The pathogen is killed when it comes in contact with the surface of the rubber, where it is exposed to chlorine.

Although the rubber loses its ability to fight pathogens once the chlorine atoms are used up, this feature can be renewed simply by exposing the rubber to bleach, which provides the missing chlorine atoms. Rubber formulas can be given enhanced disease-fighting power by adding more N-halamine groups to their structure, Worley says.

Based on preliminary laboratory studies, the researcher believes that his rubber will kill microorganisms more quickly and more efficiently than antimicrobial plastics.

N-halamines have already been used to create antimicrobial plastic, which disinfects water in filter systems, and antimicrobial clothing, which protects agricultural workers from pesticide exposure. Worley has applied for a patent for antimicrobial rubber, which he believes may reach the consumer market in a few years. Halosource Corporation of Seattle, Wash., has purchased the process to create antimicrobial plastic, clothing and rubber containing N-halamines.

Shelby Davis Worley, Ph.D., is Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.


Contact: Charmayne Marsh
(202) 872-4445
American Chemical Society

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