Ag Functionalization of Al-Doped ZnO Nanostructured Coatings on PLA Substrate for Antibacterial Applications
Developing smart, environmentally friendly, and effective antibacterial surfaces is fundamental to contrast the diffusion of human infections and diseases for applications in the biomedical and food packaging sectors. To this purpose, here we combine aluminum-doped zinc oxide (AZO) and Ag to grow nanostructured composite coatings on bioplastic polylactide (PLA) substrates. The AZO layers are grown by RF magnetron sputtering, and then functionalized with Ag in atomic form by RF magnetron sputtering and in form of nanoparticles by supersonic cluster beam deposition. We compare the morphology, wettability, and antimicrobial performance of the nanostructured coatings obtained by the two methods. The different growth modes in the two techniques used for Ag functionalization are found to produce some differences in the surface morphology, which, however, do not induce significant differences in the wettability and antimicrobial response of the coatings. The antibacterial activity is investigated against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus as representatives of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, respectively. A preferential antimicrobial action of Ag on the first species and of AZO on the second one is evidenced. Through their combination, we obtain a hybrid composite coating taking advantage of the synergistic dual action of the two materials deposited, with a total bacterial suppression within few minutes for the first species and few hours for the second one, thus representing a valuable solution as a wide-spectrum bactericidal device.