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Research Highlight | Center for Nanoscale Materials

Tuning antimicrobial properties of biomimetic nanopatterned surfaces

In a study published in Nanoscale, Argonne researchers demonstrate, using a combination of microscopies, the mechanisms by which bacteria are killed, emphasizing the dependence upon pillar density and tip geometry.

Scientific Achievement

Longer/sharper black silicon nanopillars up to 7 μm in length are effective against microbial species and exceed the performance of natural surface mimics by a factor of 2; shorter/blunter nanopillars <2 μm, however, selectively killed specific species.

Significance and Impact

The controlled variation of the features of biomimetics derived from etched black silicon allows for tuning of their antimicrobial efficacy.

Research Details

  • The Center for Nanoscale Materials capabilities employed included fabrication of the pillars in the clean room via reactive ion etching and also SEM and LSCM.
  • Bacterial cells viability tests were performed elsewhere at Argonne. Time-lapse confocal microscopy captured events  indicative of cellular immobilization and rupture.


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Work was performed in part at the Center for Nanoscale Materials.

About Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials
The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit https://​sci​ence​.ener​gy​.gov/​b​e​s​/​s​u​f​/​u​s​e​r​-​f​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​/​n​a​n​o​s​c​a​l​e​-​s​c​i​e​n​c​e​-​r​e​s​e​a​r​c​h​-​c​e​n​ters/.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.