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Developing a novel test method to determine the efficacy of antimicrobial materials

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, December 06, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Antimicrobial surfaces (either materials incorporated with biocidal compounds, for example. silver, or materials coated to provide an antimicrobial action, for example. Ti02) are becoming a common design consideration in the development of environments where the presence of potentially pathogenic microorganisms may cause a considerable issue. Obvious examples include locations such as hospital wards and care homes, but antimicrobial products are often commercialised for the domestic environments as well as being included in air and water purification systems. Thus, it is important that any potential consumer or user of antimicrobial materials has confidence in the efficacy of the material, and that the ‘antimicrobial’ claim is justified. However, current test methods for efficacy assessment of antimicrobial materials are not modelled on a realistic end-use environment, being typically carried out in conditions of high humidity (>90%) and inappropriate temperature (37 °C), with no airflow (typically in a lab). In such an environment, an inoculum will not dry, resulting in an antimicrobial surface exhibiting activity extended over time, because moisture is usually critical to activity. However, in a hospital ward (lower humidity, lower temperature, air movement), liquids will dry more quickly and antimicrobial efficacy will be reduced compared to data generated by the currently accepted tests (e.g. BS ISO 22196:2011), which will be artificially favourable to the antimicrobial claim of the product. Therefore, the requirement for new and appropriate efficacy test methods is essential.

Aims and objectives

The aim of the project is to develop a robust testing protocol, and an apparatus that is easily fabricated and that generates reproducible environmental conditions.

The project will aim to design a prototype testing chamber, for use by microbiologists and those involved in the design/manufacture of novel antimicrobials, that is able to test efficacy of antimicrobial materials in an environment closer to that expected in a hospital ward. The chamber will be fabricated using 3D printing to enhance reproducibility and to ensure that products are effective at point of use.

This will be achieved by:
◾Generating a dataset of liquid drying times on different materials in different environmental conditions (air flow, temperature, humidity etc)
◾Develop and validate a mathematical model which will reproduce intended environmental conditions for in vitro antimicrobial efficacy testing.
◾Generating a 3D-printed prototype of a test chamber suitable for an end-user with little or no engineering knowledge
◾Using the prototype test chamber to carry out antimicrobial efficacy testing of antimicrobial materials and compare the system against the current standard BS ISO 22196:2011

Specific requirements of the project

Interested candidates should have a Hons Bachelor/Master degree in a mechanical or electrical engineering. Experience in electronic sensors and data processing and electronic design is essential and an understanding of how engineering principles can be transferred to other scientific disciplines, and in particular, an appreciation for how engineering can be applied to biology is advantageous. They should be keen to learn new experimental techniques and modelling methods which will vary between lab bench microbiology (comprehensive training will be provided), sensor technology, computer modelling and 3D printing.

Funding Notes

This opportunity is open to UK, EU and Overseas applicants. Modes of study available: Full time. Funding: Funding is available for the equivalent of UK/EU fees for three years, plus an annual stipend in line with the UKRI rate (currently £15,009). Overseas applicants are welcome to apply, but will need to pay the difference in fees.


Redfern, J., J. Tucker, L. Simmons, P. Askew, I. Stephan and J. Verran (2018). "Environmental and Experimental Factors Affecting Efficacy Testing of Nonporous Plastic Antimicrobial Surfaces." Methods and Protocols 1(4): 36.

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