Metal functionalised polymeric biomaterials and their antimicrobial efficacy

  • Charlotte James

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Bacterial infection and colonisation of polymeric biomaterials represents a major problem that is on the rise within the health care industry. Bacterial attachment and biofilm formation on medical polymers is often the cause of addition discomfort, pain and in the worse case scenario sepsis and even mortality. This, in combination to the overuse of antibiotics and evolution of resistant bacterial stains, means there is a need for a more intelligent approach in the prevention of biofilm formation and bacterial infection.In this work, the antimicrobial properties of metals (in particular silver and zinc) was utilized and incorporated into polymeric biomaterial to render them antimicrobial. Several methods of functionalising polymers with antimicrobial metals were assessed. The materials developed throughout this work were designed to respond to changes in environmental as a result of infection. These changes include differences in pH and temperature all of which are altered in response to infection. This smart design allows for the reduction of unnecessary release of antimicrobial, and will reduce the likelihood of toxicity and resistance. Polymer modifications in this research include modifications made during polymer synthesis, i.e. reaction with additional antimicrobial monomer. In this case, pH responsive zinc containing crosslinker molecule was designed to crosslink into any polymeric material. Post synthesis modifications were also investigated, and include the ‘grafting to’ and ‘grafting from’ of polymers which could then be functionalised with antimicrobial metals. This work demonstrated methods to modify non-woven polypropylene. A system, for the ‘grafting from’ approach to give a pH responsive release of antimicrobial metals from a polymer brush was investigated. Secondly a ‘grafting to’ approach to give a temperature responsive release of metals was investigated. Finally, several zinc compounds were synthesised and assessed for there ability to graft via plasma assisted grafting. The results presented in this work demonstrate novel ways of incorporating antimicrobial metal functionality into polymeric biomaterials and their antimicrobial efficacy.
Date of Award1 Oct 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorToby Jenkins (Supervisor)


  • zinc
  • polymer
  • antimicrobial

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