How nano-spikes can destroy viruses without chemicals

Viruses are microscopic invaders that can cause various diseases, from the common cold to Covid-19. They are usually transmitted through respiratory droplets, contact with infected surfaces, or bodily fluids. To prevent and treat viral infections, we often rely on vaccines, antiviral drugs, or disinfectants. However, these methods have some limitations, such as side effects, resistance, or environmental impact.

What if there was a way to kill viruses without using any chemicals, but simply by piercing them with tiny spikes? This is the idea behind a novel artificial surface developed by researchers from Spain and Australia. The surface is made of silicon and has a nanostructured texture that can damage the structure of viruses on contact, rendering them harmless.

How does it work?

The artificial surface is composed of a series of needles that are 2 nanometers thick and 290 nanometers high. To put this in perspective, a human hair is about 75,000 nanometers thick. The needles are created by bombarding a smooth metal plate with ions, which remove material strategically. The result is a surface that resembles the wings of some insects, such as dragonflies or cicadas, which have a similar nanostructure that can pierce bacteria and fungi.

When a virus lands on the artificial surface, it is punctured by the needles, which break its external membrane and expose its genetic material. This disrupts the virus’s ability to infect cells and replicate. The researchers tested the surface with a human parainfluenza virus (hPIV-3), which causes respiratory infections in children and adults. They found that the surface inactivated about 96% of the viruses within six hours.

What are the benefits?

The artificial surface has several advantages over conventional methods of killing viruses. First, it does not use any chemicals, which means it is safer for humans and the environment. Second, it does not rely on temperature, humidity, or light, which means it can work in different conditions. Third, it does not induce resistance, which means it can be effective against new or mutated strains of viruses.

The researchers suggest that the artificial surface could be used in environments where there is a high risk of viral transmission, such as laboratories, health centers, or public spaces. For example, it could be applied to door handles, elevator buttons, or faucets, which are frequently touched by many people. It could also be used to coat medical devices, such as masks, gloves, or syringes, which could reduce the risk of nosocomial infections.

What are the challenges?

The artificial surface is still in the early stages of development and has some limitations. One of them is the cost of manufacturing, which is currently higher than that of conventional disinfectants. Another one is the durability of the surface, which could degrade over time due to wear and tear. A third one is the specificity of the surface, which could vary depending on the type and size of the virus.

The researchers are working on improving the design and performance of the artificial surface, as well as testing it with other viruses, such as Sars-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19. They are also exploring the possibility of using other materials, such as copper or silver, which have additional antimicrobial properties. They hope that their invention will contribute to the fight against viral diseases and pave the way for new applications of nanotechnology in biomedicine.


The table below summarizes the main features of the artificial surface that uses spikes to destroy viruses.

Feature Description
Material Silicon
Texture Nanostructured needles
Mechanism Piercing the virus membrane
Effectiveness 96% inactivation of hPIV-3
Advantages No chemicals, no resistance, no environmental impact
Limitations High cost, low durability, variable specificity

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