A novel method for bacterial inactivation using electrosprayed water nanostructures

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Abstract

This is a study focusing on the potential to deactivate biological agents (bacteria and endospores) using engineered water nanostructures (EWNS). The EWNS were generated using an electrospray device that collects water by condensing atmospheric water vapor on a Peltier-cooled electrode. A high voltage is applied between the collection electrode and a grounded electrode resulting in aerosolization of the condensed water and a constant generation of EWNS. Gram-negative Serratia marcescens, gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus atrophaeus endospores were placed on stainless steel coupons and exposed to generated EWNS at multiple time intervals. Upon exposures, the bacteria were recovered and placed on nutrient agar to grow, and the colony forming units were counted. Ozone levels as well as air temperature and relative humidity were monitored during the experiments. Qualitative confirmation of bacterial destruction was also obtained by transmission electron microscopy. In addition, important EWNS aerosol properties such as particle number concentration as a function of size as well as the average surface charge of the generated EWNS were measured using real-time instrumentation. It was shown that the novel electrospray method can generate over time a constant flux of EWNS. EWNS have a peak number concentration of ~8,000 particles per cubic centimeter with a modal peak size around 20 nm. The average surface charge of the generated EWNS was found to be 10 ± 2 electrons per particle. In addition, it was shown that the EWNS have the potential to deactivate both bacteria types from surfaces. At the same administrate dose, however, the endospores were not inactivated. This novel method and the unique properties of the generated EWNS could potentially be used to develop an effective, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive method for bacteria inactivation.