Authors: de Lucas-Gil, E; Reinosa, JJ; Neuhaus, K; Vera-Londono, L; Martin-Gonzalez, M; Fernandez, JF; Rubio-Marcos, F

ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces. vol: 9. page: 1944-8244.
Date: AUG 9. 2017.
Doi: 10.1021/acsami.7b09695.

The increasing threat of multidrug-resistance organisms is a cause for worldwide concern. Progressively microorganisms become resistant to commonly used antibiotics, which are a healthcare challenge. Thus, the discovery of new antimicrobial agents or new mechanisms different from those used is necessary. Here, we report an effective and selective antimicrobial activity of microstructured ZnO (Ms-ZnO) agent through the design of a novel star-shaped morphology, resulting in modulation of surface charge; orientation. Specifically, we find that Ms-ZnO particles are composed of platelet stacked structure, which generates multiple Schottky barriers due to the misalignment of crystallographic orientations. We also demonstrated that this effect allows negative charge accumulation in localized regions of the structure to act as “charged domain walls”, thereby improving the antimicrobial effectiveness by electric discharging effect. We use a combination of field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM), SEM-cathodoluminescence imaging, and Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) to determine that the antimicrobial activity is a result of microbial membrane physical damage caused by direct contact with the Ms-ZnO agent. It is important to point out that Ms-ZnO does not use the photocatalysis or the Zn2+ released as the main antimicrobial mechanism, so consequently this material would show low toxicity and robust stability. This approach opens new possibilities to understand both the physical interactions role as main antimicrobial mechanisms and insight into the coupled role of hierarchical morphologies and surface functionality on the antimicrobial activity..