Bacterial and other microbial infections have become a serious problem, especially in hospitals and other clinical settings with the use of antibiotics and sterilizing chemicals have given rise to strains that are resistant to standard treatments. Scientists have explored other solutions, such as silver nano-particles that have been included in everything from computer keyboards to socks, but these particles have found their way into various ecosystems, causing some conservationists to sound alarms.

A company in Colorado has come up with a purely mechanical solution to the problem. Sharklet Technologies has created a material with an nano-textured surface that prevents bacteria and other microbes from getting a foothold so that they cannot colonize and spread infection. The diamond pattern of small rectangular ridges was inspired by the surface of sharkskin. Sharkskin naturally resists the growth of organisms in the ocean, such as barnacles or algae, that can establish themselves on other sea creatures.

The use of Sharklet-patterned films in an simulated operating room setting was shown to “significantly reduce” surface contamination, though it has not yet been tested in clinical trials. The material could be useful in reducing infections in applications ranging from catheters and trachea tubes to adhesive films.