Silver lining

Silver lining

July 14, 2010

Doctors have known since the time of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates that silver has germicidal properties. In the last quarter of the 20th century, researchers tried to take advantage of that fact by incorporating silver into dressings and bandages for burn patients, for example. But their processes were complicated, making the resulting products expensive.

Now, after nearly a decade of research, Quebec researchers have just patented a far less costly method that requires only a tiny amount of the metal and works with all textiles.

Dominic Tessier and Olivier Vermeersch of Groupe CTT at the Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe spearheaded the project. Tessier says their process is similar to the one used for making stain-resistant materials for furniture and carpets. Fabrics are soaked in a solution of polymers and nanocrystals of silver. Heating the polymers allows the silver to invisibly adhere.

And sweaty athletes take note. Beyond a range of medical uses, their invention has other unexpected applications. Since silver kills odour-causing bacteria, their fabrics are ideal for sports clothes.