Inspired by observations that the natural topography observed on cicada and dragonfly wings may be lethal to bacteria, researchers have sought to reproduce these nanostructures on biomaterials with the goal of reducing implant-associated infections. Titanium and its alloys are widely employed biomaterials with excellent properties but are susceptible to bacterial colonisation. Hydrothermal etching is a simple, cost-effective procedure which fabricates nanoscale protrusions of various dimensions upon titanium, depending on the etching parameters used. We investigated the role of etching time and the choice of cation (sodium and potassium) in the alkaline heat treatment on the topographical, physical, and bactericidal properties of the resulting modified titanium surfaces. Optimal etching times were 4 h for sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and 5 h for potassium hydroxide (KOH). NaOH etching for 4 h produced dense, but somewhat ordered, surface nanofeatures with 75 nanospikes per µm2. In comparison, KOH etching for 5 h resulted sparser but nonetheless disordered surface morphology with only 8 spikes per µm2. The NaOH surface was more effective at eliminating Gram-negative pathogens, while the KOH surface was more effective against the Gram-positive strains. These findings may guide further research and development of bactericidal titanium surfaces which are optimised for the predominant pathogens associated with the intended application.
- implant associated infection
- titanium alloy