Open Access Open Badges Research article

Ultra-rapid elimination of biofilms via the combustion of a nanoenergetic coating

Byung-Doo Lee1, Rajagopalan Thiruvengadathan23, Sachidevi Puttaswamy1, Brandon M Smith1, Keshab Gangopadhyay23, Shubhra Gangopadhyay23 and Shramik Sengupta1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Engineering, University of Missouri, 1406 E Rollins St., 252 Ag Engineering Building, Columbia, MO 65211-5200, USA

2 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Missouri, 349, Engineering Building West, Columbia, MO 65211, USA

3 NEMS/MEMS Works LLC, 8850 Westlake Road West, Columbia, MO 65202, USA

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BMC Biotechnology 2013, 13:30  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-30

Published: 27 March 2013



Biofilms occur on a wide variety of surfaces including metals, ceramics, glass etc. and often leads to accumulation of large number of various microorganisms on the surfaces. This biofilm growth is highly undesirable in most cases as biofilms can cause degradation of the instruments and its performance along with contamination of the samples being processed in those systems. The current “offline” biofilm removal methods are effective but labor intensive and generates waste streams that are toxic to be directly disposed. We present here a novel process that uses nano-energetic materials to eliminate biofilms in < 1 second. The process involves spray-coating a thin layer of nano-energetic material on top of the biofilm, allowing it to dry, and igniting the dried coating to incinerate the biofilm.


The nanoenergetic material is a mixture of aluminum (Al) nanoparticles dispersed in a THV-220A (fluoropolymer oxidizer) matrix. Upon ignition, the Al nanoparticles react with THV-220A exothermically, producing high temperatures (>2500 K) for an extremely brief period (~100 ms) that destroys the biofilm underneath. However, since the total amount of heat produced is low (~0.1 kJ/cm2), the underlying surface remains undamaged. Surfaces with biofilms of Pseudomonas aeruginosa initially harboring ~ 107 CFU of bacteria /cm2 displayed final counts of less than 5 CFU/cm2 after being subjected to our process. The byproducts of the process consist only of washable carbonaceous residue and gases, making this process potentially inexpensive due to low toxic-waste disposal costs.


This novel method of biofilm removal is currently in the early stage of development. However, it has potential to be used in offline biofilm elimination as a rapid, easy and environmentally friendly method.

Nanoenergetic materials; Nanothermites; Biofilms; Biofilm removal; Nanomaterial combustion; Ultra-rapid decontamination