Skip to content

Smart surfaces

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • Play our game to see if you can identify bacteria under our microscope
  • Learn about our light-activated antimicrobial prototype materials like catheters and keyboards
  • Play our game and experience super-hydrophobic (water repellent) materials!

Find out more

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’, surfaces 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 by watching another video, or read about how we've made surfaces which are light-activated and others which are self-cleaning, including self-cleaning windows!

Presented by: University College London.

Was this page useful?
Thank you for your feedback
Thank you for your feedback. Please help us improve this page by taking our short survey.