LCD television waste turned into antibacterial

23 June 2010

Chemists at the University of York have discovered a way to convert a key component of LCD screens into and anti-microbial substance.

Researchers at the University's Department of Chemistry have discovered a way of transforming the chemical compound polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA), which is a key element of television sets 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 (see MTB Europe news It could also be used in pills and dressings that are designed to deliver drugs to particular parts of the body.

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 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.

"Now we have gone a step further by enhancing its anti-microbial properties through the addition of silver nanoparticles, with the result being 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.

The research is a development from a long term project, funded by the UK governments Technology Strategy Board, examining the problems posed by LCD waste in which the University of York is a partner.

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