Touchscreen technology could help fight spread of bacteria in hospitals

touchscreen technology fight bacteria 18736482 l
Cathy Yeulet/123RF
Even in the relatively short period of time that they have been around, the technology involved in touchscreens has advanced at an impressive rate. Researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have an unusual new application for the conducting plastic used in touchscreens, however: manipulating the growth of bacteria.

In an innovative piece of research, scientists from Karolinska Institute’s Swedish Medical Nanoscience Center reveal how conducting plastics can also be used to “trick” the metabolism of certain pathogenic bacteria. By either adding or removing electrons from the plastic surface of a touchscreen, bacteria can be made to either grow more or — often ideally — less.

“In order for bacteria to grow they need to respire, just like humans,” Professor Agneta Richter-Dahlfors, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “When doing so, they produce electrons. We have used a surface made of conducting polymers as a dynamic interface. By removing the electrons from the conducting polymer via an electric circuit, we help bacteria to get rid of their electrons by delivering them to the surface. By doing so, bacteria grow very well, and they form a dense layer — a so-called biofilm — on the surface. In contrast, when we fill the conducting polymer surface with electrons, again via an electric circuit, all spaces become occupied so bacteria have nowhere to deliver their electrons. This is bad for bacterial growth, and bacterial growth is hampered.”

At present, it’s still relatively early in the research but the team hopes it will be able to use this insight to develop a new, highly-effective antibacterial coating technology. While we would personally love to see something like this used to keep our smartphones bacteria-free, the scientists behind the project have more pressing applications in mind: Namely employing it in hospitals to hinder bacterial infection. It could also be used, conversely, to promote the growth of bacterial biofilms where they are needed — such as in wastewater management systems.

Who knew that some of the technology which makes our iPhones work could also be used to potentially save lives?

A paper describing the research was recently published in the journal NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes.

Product Review

‘Battlefield V’ shows up late for battle, but it's still unprepared

Battlefield V’s War Stories give us a new perspective on World War II, but the game’s lack of polish across both its campaign and multiplayer modes are almost impossible to ignore.
Smart Home

Cloud slime, butter slime, scented slime -- we have your next DIY project covered

We researched dozens of different ingredients and tried several slime recipes. While some recipes are generally pretty safe, others are questionable at best. Which recipes should you use, and which should you avoid?
Emerging Tech

‘Bionic mushroom’ can generate electricity without using fossil fuels

Researchers have come up with a way to produce electricity without fossil fuels using mushrooms covered with bacteria. The mushroom provides a safe environment for special cyanobacteria that generate electricity when light is shone on them.
Gaming

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.
Photography

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Emerging Tech

Curiosity rover active and drilling again after computer issue

The Curiosity rover has succeeded in drilling a hole into the tough bedrock that previously defeated it, allowing imaging and collection of samples. The rover had been incapacitated for a few weeks due to problems with its computer.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover two rogue planets that do not orbit a star

Astronomers have identified two rogue planets in our galaxy which do not orbit around a star. Unlike the vast majority of discovered planets, these rogue planets drift through space alone with no sun to shine on them.
Emerging Tech

Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

Astronomers have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies that are colliding with each other. These black holes will spiral closer and closer together and eventually merge into one supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.
Emerging Tech

Rocket Lab steps into spotlight with its first commercial rocket launch

Rocket Lab has deployed multiple small satellites into orbit in its first notable commercial launch. Its New Zealand-born boss said the success means "rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites."