Enhancing the Bactericidal Efficacy of Nanostructured Multifunctional Surface Using an Ultrathin Metal Coating

Insects and plants exhibit bactericidal behavior through nanostructures, which leads to physical contact killing that does not require antibiotics or chemicals. Also, certain metallic ions (e.g., Ag<sup>+</sup> and Cu<sup>2+</sup>) are well-known to kill bacteria by disrupting their cellular functionalities. The aim of this study is to explore the improvement in bactericidal activity by combining extreme physical structure with surface chemistry. We have fabricated tall (8–9 μm high) nanostructures on silicon surfaces (NSS) having sharp tips (35–110 nm) using a single-step, maskless deep reactive ion etching technique inspired by dragonfly wing. Bactericidal efficacy of the nanostructured surfaces coated with a thin layer of silver (NSS_Ag) or copper (NSS_Cu) was measured quantitatively using standard viability plate-count method and flow cytometry. NSS_Cu surfaces kill bacteria very efficiently (killing 97% within 30 min) when compared to the uncoated NSS. This can be attributed to the addition of a surface chemistry to the nanostructures. The antibacterial activity of NSS_Cu is further indicated by the morphological differences of the dying/dead bacteria observed in the SEM images. The nanostructured surfaces demonstrate excellent superhydrophobic behavior, even with an ultrathin layer of metal (Ag/Cu) coating. The nanostructured surfaces exhibit static contact angle greater than 150° and contact hysteresis less than 10°. Moreover, reflectance is found to be <1% (for NSS_Cu < 0.5%) for all the nanostructured surfaces in the wavelength range 250–800 nm. The results obtained suggest that the fabricated nanostructured surfaces are multifunctional and can be used in various practical applications.