Leadership of a European project aimed at using ultrasound to produce antimicrobial textiles and devices on an industrial scale

Leadership of a European project aimed at using ultrasound to produce antimicrobial textiles and devices on an industrial scale

The ultrasound technology is applied for coat textiles with antimicrobial nanoparticles

Researcher and professor Tzanko Tzanov, who works on the Terrassa Campus of the UPC, is the leader of the European PROTECT project, which focuses on applying ultrasound technology in the industrial-scale manufacture of textiles and devices coated with antimicrobial nanoparticles. The technology will be used to coat medical textiles, materials used in public areas, medical devices, and water treatment membranes.

Apr 24, 2017

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization, every year over 4 million patients acquire an infection associated with a hospital stay. The data indicate that hospital-acquired infections have generated a cost of €7 billion and direct and indirect mortality of 137,000 patients a year.

Given the scale of the problem, the European Union, through the Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme, has opted to introduce a technique based on the antimicrobial effects of ultrasound. The project includes the construction of three industrial-scale machines for producing antimicrobial textiles (for medical use and public areas), medical devices and water treatment membranes. The pilot project, known as PROTECT, is coordinated by Tzanko Tzanov, a researcher with the Molecular and Industrial Biotechnology Group (GBMI) and professor at the Terrassa School of Industrial, Aerospace and Audiovisual Engineering (ESEIAAT) and the Terrassa School of Optics and Optometry (FOOT), two UPC schools located on the Terrassa Campus.

The efficiency of this technology for coating surfaces with antimicrobial nanoparticles was previously demonstrated in the European projects SONO and NOVO, which were carried out by the same consortium and also coordinated by Tzanko Tzanov. The UPC researcher is an expert on applying nanobiotechnologies to obtain materials that can be used in biomedicine, such as wound dressings, antimicrobial catheters, diagnostic kits and nanoantibiotics. He has spent over 10 years conducting research on medical devices and new methods for eliminating antimicrobial colonies and thus reducing the use of antibiotics. His interest and expertise in this research area has led him to collaborate with various companies and European research centres on other projects involving the use of nanotechnologies and ultrasound.

The other Spanish participants in the project (which has received €7.5 million in EU funding) are the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Textile Industry Research Association (AITEX), which has its headquarters in Alcoy (Alicante).

From the laboratory to industry
The technique, which has been used successfully by Tzanko Tzanov and the PROTECT project partners in previous research, uses ultrasound to synthesise and deposit antimicrobial nanoparticles on surfaces that will come in direct contact with people. Ultrasound has already been used to produce nanoparticles with a long-lasting antimicrobial effect. For example, in hospital textiles, these properties were retained even after 70 wash cycles at 80°C.

We’re ready to take the step from the semi-industrial scale to the industrial scale,” said Tzanov. He predicts that, thanks to the EU’s commitment to the project, “Four years from now the companies in the PROTECT consortium will introduce antimicrobial products on the European market, including medical textiles such as lab coats and sheets, urinary catheters, and even membranes for water treatment, as well as textiles for use on furnishings in public spaces, among other applications.” According to Tzanov, “Manufacturing products of this kind on a large scale will reduce mortality and healthcare spending in European countries.”

The companies participating in the project (13 SMEs and two multinationals) will implement the new processes and market the antimicrobial products. Maroco, a Portuguese company, will produce antimicrobial textiles for use in public spaces, and Degania, an Israeli firm that is a global leader in the manufacture of catheters, will make bacteria-resistant versions of these devices and biofilms. The Italian company Fonte Nuova will make antimicrobial water filters, and Klopman, another Italian firm, will produce medical textiles that reduce the risk of spreading hospital infections. The same companies will also market these products.

The other participating companies will be responsible for building the ultrasound machines and for the automation and control of the manufacturing processes. Nine universities and research centres – in France, Germany, Russia, Ireland and Spain – are developing the new antimicrobial nanoparticles.

Spanish initiative one of five major pilot projects
The PROTECT project, the only one coordinated by an institution based in Spain, is one of five selected in the most recent European call for proposals to develop pilot industrial projects based on nanotechnologies, advanced materials, advanced manufacturing and processing, and biotechnology. The programme, which is part of H2020, supports the development of technologies that underpin innovation in the European industrial sector, with the participation of large companies and SMEs.