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Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2015 Jan;175(2):666-76. doi: 10.1007/s12010-014-1318-z. Epub 2014 Oct 24.

Inactivation of bacteria by electric current in the presence of carbon nanotubes embedded within a polymeric membrane.

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Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Uniform conductive composite membranes were prepared using a phase inversion method by blending carboxyl-functionalized multi-walled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with a polysulfone polymer. At 6 % of the embedded CNTs, the membrane pore size measured by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was approximately 50 nm. Electric current in the presence of the composite membranes markedly inactivated the model pathogenic bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, with the extent of bacterial inactivation rising when the current was increased. Over 99.999 % inactivation of both bacteria was observed in deionized water after 40 min at 5 mA direct current (DC); importantly, no appreciable inactivation occurred in the absence of either the electric field or the CNTs within the membranes under otherwise the same conditions. A much lower, although still pronounced, inactivation was seen with alternating current (AC) in a 25 mM NaCl aqueous solution.

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