2009-056 – Conjugated Polyelectrolyte Microcapsules as Light Activated Antimicrobials


Now more than ever there is a need for stronger and more consistent antimicrobial surfaces. Surfaces with antimicrobial properties are of interest for medical facilities, medical devices, and even homes and household items to reduce the transmission of diseases and other malaise from one organism to another organism through common contact with the surface. Microbes generally have a limited lifetime on a surface; however, that lifetime is generally for at least a few hours and is often in the order of days. Even when the microbes survive for hours significant contact can occur over that period. The most prevalent technologies used for antimicrobial surfaces include silver ion technology, organic biocides in coatings or incorporated into objects, and cationic biocides covalently bonded to a reactive silicone compound. Despite their effectiveness, these technologies can suffer from toxicity to surrounding organisms or promote formation of resistant microbial strains. Therefore, there is a need for an antimicrobial agent that is harmless to organisms and does not promote resistant microorganisms.

Technology Description

Researchers at the University of New Mexico and University of Florida have discovered a novel light activated antimicrobial agent. This invention builds on an antimicrobial coating that has been developed by the same group of inventors that can function catalytically, can be used in a variety of environments, and that can use cationic conjugated polyelecrolytes (CPEs) to entrap bacteria in a dark process and subsequently kill the entrapped bacteria. Described here is a method and device to produce remarkably enhanced light-activated biocidal activity of micron-sized polyelecrolye hollow capsules consisting of alternating layers of a pair of anionic and cationic phenleneethynylene-type CPEs. These novel photoactive polyelectrolyte capsules function in a manner reminiscent of insect entrapping devices, with respect to their ability to attract, concentrate, and kill bacteria trapped within and on the surface of the capsules.


  • Offers non-toxic characteristics
  • Provides an antimicrobial agent that does not promote resistant microorganisms
  • Efficiently kills microbes when irradiated with light or other electromagnetic radiation

Potential Applications

  • Biocide
  • Decontaminant
  • Disinfectant
  • Medical Facilities
  • Medical Devices
  • Household Items
  • Schools

Contact Information

Name: Gregg Banninger

Email: GBanninger@innovations.unm.edu

Phone: 505-272-7908