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Decontaminating surfaces with atomized disinfectants generated by a novel thickness-mode lithium niobate device


We evaluated the ability of a novel lithium niobate (LN) thickness-mode device to atomize disinfectants and reduce microbial burden on model surface materials. A small-scale plastic model housed the LN thickness-mode device and circular coupon surface materials including polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate, stainless steel, borosilicate glass, and natural rubber. Coupon surfaces were coated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains of Gram-negative bacterial pathogens (Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, and Acinetobacter baumannii), atomized with disinfectant solutions of varying viscosity (including 10% bleach, 70% ethanol (EtOH), or 25% triethylene glycol (TEG)) using the LN thickness-mode device, and assessed for surviving bacteria. The LN thickness-mode device effectively atomized disinfectants ranging from low viscosity 10% bleach solution or 70% EtOH to highly viscous 25% TEG. Coupons harboring MDR bacteria and atomized with 10% bleach solution or 70% EtOH were effectively decontaminated with ~ 100% bacterial elimination. Atomized 25% TEG effectively eliminated 100% of K. pneumoniae (CRE) from contaminated coupon surfaces but not MRSA. The enclosed small-scale plastic model established proof-of-principle that the LN thickness-mode device could atomize disinfectants of varying viscosities and decontaminate coupon surface materials harboring MDR organisms. Future studies evaluating scaled devices for patient rooms are warranted to determine their utility in hospital environmental decontamination.

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We thank Dr. Mike Austin (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University) for his advice and support.


This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants U01 AI124316 and U54 HD090259 (to M. K. and V.N), National Science Foundation grant 1542148 (to S. C. and J. F.), Office of Naval Research grant 12368098 (to S. C. and J. F.), and the Belmay Corporation (to S.C. and J.F.). Additionally, this work was performed in part at the San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI) of the University of California San Diego support by National Science Foundation grant ECCS – 1542148.

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Correspondence to Monika Kumaraswamy.

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Kumaraswamy, M., Collignon, S., Do, C. et al. Decontaminating surfaces with atomized disinfectants generated by a novel thickness-mode lithium niobate device. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 102, 6459–6467 (2018).

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  • Lithium niobate thickness-mode device
  • Disinfection
  • Multidrug-resistant bacteria