Killing Bacteria and Viruses with Engineered Water Nano-Structure

Research Area: Environmental Nanotechnology

Funding Agencies: USDA


Environmental Nanotechnology focuses on applications related to environmental remediation. Applications include air and water disinfection, inactivation of pathogens on surfaces and biological media.

We currently exploring a novel, chemical free, nanotechnology-based technology that kills bacteria and other pathogens in air and on surfaces. This technique is based on transforming atmospheric water vapor into Engineered Water Nano Structures (EWNS) via electrospray. The generated EWNS possess a unique set of physical, chemical, morphological and biological properties. Their average size is 25 nm and they contain reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydroxyl and superoxide radicals. In addition, EWNS are highly electrically charged (10 electrons/per particle on average). We found a link between their electric charge and the reduction of their evaporation rate that results in an extended lifetime (over an hour) at room conditions. Furthermore, it was also clearly demonstrated that the EWNS have the ability to interact with, and inactivate airborne bacteria. Finally, inhalation acute in-vivo inhalation studies using a mouse model revealed that EWNS have minimal toxicological effects. In conclusion, this novel, chemical free, nanotechnology-based method has the potential to be used in the battle against airborne infectious diseases.

Currently, through a NIFA/USDA grant, we explore the application of this technology in the field of fresh produce disinfection in an effort to reduce the spread of food borne pathogens and prolong the shelf life of  fresh produce.