Our current infrastructure has limited capability to mitigate the spread of antibiotic resistance genes, ubiquitous biofouling of surfaces, and recent unpredictable viral outbreak at global scale. Innovating novel pathogen controlling materials is critical for building future sustainable infrastructures to protect natural and built environment. This project aims to develop a novel antimicrobial peptide coating on a nanocrystalline cellulose fibrous filter for pathogen control. Host defense antimicrobial peptides carry cationic and amphiphilic features, enabling vigorous bacteria cell membrane disruption via electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions, while exerting nearly no toxicity towards mammalian cells. To leverage their functionalities, nanocrystalline cellulose with a high surface to volume ratio is utilized as the peptide carrier to provide high filtration capacity. The peptide enabled filters could also achieve inactivation of pathogens, comparing to only retention by nanocellulose fibrous filter alone. Furthermore, motivated by the recent discovery of antiviral properties of the peptides, site-specific conjugation will be developed to tune the peptide orientation on material surface. This orientation control may facilitate the protein binding (including SARS-CoV-2) between peptide and viral capsid or spike protein, enabling precise viral removal. By further optimizing packing density and layering thickness, together, a nanocrystalline cellulose fibrous filter with efficient and simultaneous removal and inactivation of bacteria and virus can be fabricated. Such pathogen inactivation filtration does not utilize chemicals or energy, and do not leave harmful disinfection byproducts, achieving sustainable pathogen control.
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