Indexed on: 28 May '20Published on: 28 May '20Published in: PNAS
The mechano-bactericidal activity of nanostructured surfaces has become the focus of intensive research toward the development of a new generation of antibacterial surfaces, particularly in the current era of emerging antibiotic resistance. This work demonstrates the effects of an incremental increase of nanopillar height on nanostructure-induced bacterial cell death. We propose that the mechanical lysis of bacterial cells can be influenced by the degree of elasticity and clustering of highly ordered silicon nanopillar arrays. Herein, silicon nanopillar arrays with diameter 35 nm, periodicity 90 nm and increasing heights of 220, 360, and 420 nm were fabricated using deep UV immersion lithography. Nanoarrays of 360-nm-height pillars exhibited the highest degree of bactericidal activity toward both Gram stain-negative and Gram stain-positive bacteria, inducing 95 ± 5% and 83 ± 12% cell death, respectively. At heights of 360 nm, increased nanopillar elasticity contributes to the onset of pillar deformation in response to bacterial adhesion to the surface. Theoretical analyses of pillar elasticity confirm that deflection, deformation force, and mechanical energies are more significant for the substrata possessing more flexible pillars. Increased storage and release of mechanical energy may explain the enhanced bactericidal action of these nanopillar arrays toward bacterial cells contacting the surface; however, with further increase of nanopillar height (420 nm), the forces (and tensions) can be partially compensated by irreversible interpillar adhesion that reduces their bactericidal effect. These findings can be used to inform the design of next-generation mechano-responsive surfaces with tuneable bactericidal characteristics for antimicrobial surface technologies.