Researchers at RMIT University in Australia have developed an artificial enzyme that uses visible light to break down and destroy bacteria.
The NanoZymes work by combining light with moisture to create a biochemical reaction that results in OH radicals that break down bacteria.
When tested using visible light sources the activity of these enzymes increased 20-fold, creating holes in the bacterial cells and killing them.
Researchers hope that in the future the enzymes could be activated by sunlight.
RMIT lead researcher Vipul Bansal said: “For a number of years we have been attempting to develop artificial enzymes that can fight bacteria, while also offering opportunities to control bacterial infections using external triggers and stimuli. Now we have finally cracked it.
“This next generation of nanomaterials are likely to offer new opportunities in bacteria free surfaces and controlling spread of infections in public hospitals.”
Researchers aim to use the NanoZymes against various bacterial infections such as E. coli and golden staph.
The NanoZymes work in a solution that mimics the fluid in a wound and could be sprayed onto surfaces.
They are also produced as powders to mix with paints, ceramics and other consumer products. This could mean bacteria-free walls and surfaces in hospitals.
Researchers also expect that the enzymes may help in developing self-cleaning toilet bowls.
They are currently transitioning from testing the technology in a lab environment to evaluating the long-term performance of the NanoZymes in consumer products.