Studies of black silicon and black diamond as materials for antibacterial surfaces†
‘Black silicon’ (bSi) samples with surfaces covered in nanoneedles of varying length, areal density and sharpness, have been fabricated using a plasma etching process. These nanostructures were then coated with a conformal uniform layer of diamond using hot filament chemical vapour deposition to produce ‘black diamond’ (bD) surfaces. The effectiveness of these bSi and bD surfaces in killing Gram-negative (E. coli) and Gram-positive (S. gordonii) bacteria was investigated by culturing the bacteria on the surfaces for a set time and then measuring the live-to-dead ratio. All the nanostructured surfaces killed E. coli at a significantly higher rate than the respective flat Si or diamond control samples. The length of the needles was found to be less important than their separation, i.e. areal density. This is consistent with a model for mechanical bacteria death based on the stretching and disruption of the cell membrane, enhanced by the cells motility on the surfaces. In contrast, S. gordonii were unaffected by the nanostructured surfaces, possibly due to their smaller size, thicker cell membrane and/or their lack of motility.