To keep household objects clean and dry, water and liquid repellent coating has been developed for everything from shoes, clothing, paper to even electronics. Now a team of Canadian researchers has come up a cheap and safe solution to tackle one of food industry's most serious problem--bacteria-related contamination.
Microbe contamination is the main cause of food poisoning. It happens when an excessive amount of bacteria get mixed with the ready-to-eat food. Dairy and raw meat products are among the most frequently recalled items, often due to the growth of bacterial colonies of Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli., inside food-processing equipments.
Most of these machines are constructed using stainless steel that a non-porous surface. However, with years in operation, dents, nicks, and scratches start to accumulate on the surface. With food residual gets trapped in these small cavities, food-processing equipments become the perfect breeding ground for microbes.
Led by Ben Hatton, a material scientist at the University of Toronto, the research group published their simple solution in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. They sprayed a thin layer of cooking oil onto the metal surface to fill in the micro-cavities, so that no food residual can be stucked inside and the forming of bacterial colonies can be prevented. Their cooking oil spray method reduces the ability of microbial growth by a thousandfold when compared to the non-treated metal surface.
Their method is based on the Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) principle, which was first designed by the researchers at Harvard University. Their patented product is a porous film that can change its transparency and wettability when stretched. It mimics a carnivorous plant in South America, which uses microscale hairs to create a water slide that causes ants to slip to their death.
Hatton and his team believed they have created a cheaper and safer alternative to what the industry consider as a standard practice, which involves cleaning the equipments with detergent-like chemicals and disinfectants.
When commenting on the possible impact of their research, Hatton said: "Contamination in food preparation equipment can impact individual health, cause costly product recalls and can still result after chemical-based cleaning occurs."
"The research showed that using a surface treatment and a cooking oil barrier provides greater coverage and results in 1,000 less bacteria roaming around," he added.
The team will continue their testing on different combinations of oils in search of an even more efficient way to block bacterial growth. They also believe that their new technique would potentially help fight bacterial infection in countries with poor sanitary conditions.
This amazing spray can keep anything dry (Tech Insider)