In a new paper published in Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers describe the testing of a new coating made of silver and ruthenium, a platinum derivative. Elements like silver have been shown to kill off microorganisms with great efficiency and silver coils are used in a variety of applications, such as water cooling, to prevent the growth of bacteria.
The coating, which the researchers call AGXX, was tested on one of the more disgusting surfaces of the International Space Station: the bathroom door. Testing was then performed on the surfaces after the coating was applied for several months and the results seemed promising.
“After 6 months exposure on the ISS, no bacteria were recovered from AGXX-coated surfaces,” Professor Elisabeth Grohmann, senior author of the work, said in a statement.
Testing was performed once again between 12 and 19 months and while a few bacteria had managed to latch on during that extended period, there was still an overall reduction of 80 percent in terms of bacteria activity. The researchers attribute this to the build-up of microscopic material on the surfaces that was preventing the bacteria from coming into direct contact with the surface.
“With prolonged exposure time a few bacteria escaped the antimicrobial action,” Grohmann says. “The antimicrobial test-materials are static surfaces, where dead cells, dust particles and cell debris can accumulate over time and interfere with the direct contact between the antimicrobial surface and the bacteria.”
This work is especially important because of the stress astronauts endure during their stay aboard the space station. Dramatic changes in daily life can reduce the effectiveness of human immune systems and flying into space is one of the most stressful things a person can experience.