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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2017 Oct 11;9(40):35297-35304. doi: 10.1021/acsami.7b08152. Epub 2017 Sep 25.

Silver Nanocluster-Embedded Zein Films as Antimicrobial Coating Materials for Food Packaging.

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Department of Nutrition and Food Science, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland , College Park, Maryland 20740, United States.
Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), National Institutes of Health (NIH) , Bethesda, Maryland 20892, United States.
Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, USDA-ARS , 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Building 002, Beltsville, Maryland 20705, United States.
School of Food and Bioengineering, Xihua University , Chengdu, Sichuan 610039, China.


Highly efficient antimicrobial agents with low toxicity and resistance have been enthusiastically pursued to address public concerns on microbial contamination in food. Silver nanoclusters (AgNCs) are known for their ultrasmall sizes and unique optical and chemical properties. Despite extensive studies of AgNCs for biomedical applications, previous research on their application as antimicrobials for food applications is very limited. Here, for the first time, by incorporating AgNCs (∼2 nm in diameter) into zein films that are widely used as food packaging materials, we developed a novel coating material with potent antimicrobial activity, low toxicity to human cells, and low potential to harm the environment. In addition, we systematically evaluated the antimicrobial activities and cytotoxicity of AgNCs-embedded zein films and compared them to zein films embedded with AgNO3 or Ag nanoparticles with diameters of 10 and 60 nm (AgNP10 and AgNP60, respectively). At equivalent silver concentrations, AgNCs and AgNO3 solutions exhibited considerably higher antimicrobial activities than those of AgNP10 and AgNP60 solutions. Moreover, AgNCs exhibited less cytotoxicity to human cells than AgNO3, with a half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 34.68 μg/mL for AgNCs, compared to 9.14 μg/mL for AgNO3. Overall, the novel AgNCs coating developed in this research has great potential for antimicrobial applications in food packaging materials due to its high antimicrobial efficacy, ultrasmall size, and low cytotoxicity.


Silver nanoclusters; antimicrobial agent; coating material; food packaging; zein

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