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Smart Surfaces at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition

Dr Ioannis Papakonstantinou's group will be demonstrating their research

Dr Ioannis Papakonstantinou, Senior Lecturer and his group will be showcasing their Smart Surfaces research at the prestigious Royal Society Summer Exhibition which runs from 4th-9th July 2017 at the Royal Society in London. The event is free and open to the general public. It is very interactive and hands-on.

Have you ever considered what life would be like without antibiotics? With more bacteria becoming resistant to several drugs, even simple and currently easily treatable infections may soon be untreatable, even fatal, because they are resistant to antibiotics. This prospect is called the ‘antibiotic apocalypse’. Preventing infection happening in the first place, particularly in hospitals, is the best way to avoid this.

One way infections are transmitted in hospitals is by people touching surfaces - people touch contaminated surfaces in hospitals and then interact with each other, passing on bacteria. These ‘hospital-acquired’ infections are on the rise, so we need new strategies to beat them.

At University College London, we are developing ‘smart surfaces’, with colleagues professor Ivan Parkin and professor Claire Calmart from UCL Chemistry. These surfaces are made of materials that prevent infections being transmitted in hospitals via touching. We are creating antimicrobial and self-cleaning surfaces - light-active materials that kill bacteria, and surfaces that self-clean by repelling water (they are hydrophobic). As well as preventing infection, bacteria are unlikely to become resistant to our innovative smart surface technologies, reducing the chances of further antimicrobial resistance.

Our ‘super-hydrophobic’ self-cleaning materials can be used in many environments to keep surfaces clean, such as mobile phones, tablets, door handles, or even handrails on a bus or train. And the antimicrobial surface technology can be applied to many types of medical device, such as catheters, where repeated infections are currently difficult to treat because they are often caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria. All of our technologies can be applied when materials are manufactured or at a later stage, for example in paint form.

Our research is moving us towards our new strategy – to prevent infections in the first place, rather than rely on treating them once they have already taken hold.

Find out more about the event and Dr Papakonstantinou’s research by watching the video at the link below: