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Inactivation of bacteria under visible light and in the dark by Cu films. Advantages of Cu-HIPIMS-sputtered films



The Cu polyester thin-sputtered layers on textile fabrics show an acceptable bacterial inactivation kinetics using sputtering methods.

Materials and methods

Direct current magnetron sputtering (DCMS) for 40 s of Cu on cotton inactivated Escherichia coli within 30 min under visible light and within 120 min in the dark. For a longer DCMS time of 180 s, the Cu content was 0.294% w/w, but the bacterial inactivation kinetics under light was observed within 30 min, as was the case for the 40-s sputtered sample.

Results and discussion

This observation suggests that Cu ionic species play a key role in the E. coli inactivation and these species were further identified by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The 40-s sputtered samples present the highest amount of Cu sites held in exposed positions interacting on the cotton with E. coli. Cu DC magnetron sputtering leads to thin metallic semi-transparent gray–brown Cu coating composed by Cu nanoparticulate in the nanometer range as found by electron microscopy (EM). Cu cotton fabrics were also functionalized by bipolar asymmetric DCMSP.


Sputtering by DCMS and DCMSP for longer times lead to darker and more compact Cu films as detected by diffuse reflectance spectroscopy and EM. Cu is deposited on the polyester in the form of Cu2O and CuO as quantified by XPS. The redox interfacial reactions during bacterial inactivation involve changes in the Cu oxidation states and in the oxidation intermediates and were followed by XPS. High-power impulse magnetron sputtering (HIPIMS)-sputtered films show a low rugosity indicating that the texture of the Cu nanoparticulate films were smooth. The values of R q and R a were similar before and after the E. coli inactivation providing evidence for the stability of the HIPIMS-deposited Cu films. The Cu loading percentage required in the Cu films sputtered by HIPIMS to inactivate E. coli was about three times lower compared to DCMS films. This indicates a substantial Cu metal savings within the preparation of antibacterial films.

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We wish to thank the COST Action MP0804 Highly Ionized Pulse Plasma Processes (HIPIMS), the EPFL, and the Swiss–Hungarian Cooperation Program “Sustainable fine chemical pharmaceutical industry: screening and utilization of liquid wastes” for the support of this work.

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Correspondence to Cesar Pulgarin or John Kiwi.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Ehiasarian, A., Pulgarin, C. & Kiwi, J. Inactivation of bacteria under visible light and in the dark by Cu films. Advantages of Cu-HIPIMS-sputtered films. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19, 3791–3797 (2012).

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  • Cu films
  • Sputtered films
  • Polyester