Self-decontaminating nanofibrous filters for efficient particulate matter removal and airborne bacteria inactivation†
With the increased bacteria-induced hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) caused by bio-contaminated surfaces, the requirement for a safer and more efficient antibacterial strategy in designing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirators is rising with urgency. Herein, a self-decontaminating nanofibrous filter with a high particulate matter (PM) filtration efficiency was designed and fabricated via a facile electrospinning method. The fillers implemented in the electrospun nanofibers were constructed by grafting a layer of antibacterial polymeric quaternary ammonium compound (QAC), that is, poly[2-(dimethyl decyl ammonium) ethyl methacrylate] (PQDMAEMA), onto the surface of metal–organic framework (MOF, UiO-66-NH2 as a model) to form the active composite UiO-PQDMAEMA. The UiO-PQDMAEMA filter demonstrates an excellent PM filtration efficiency (>95%) at the most penetrating particle size (MPPS) of 80 nm, which is comparable to that of the commercial N95 respirators. Besides, the UiO-PQDMAEMA filter is capable of efficiently killing both Gram-positive (S. epidermidis) and Gram-negative (E. coli) airborne bacteria. The strong electrostatic interactions between the anionic cell wall of the bacteria and positively charged nitrogen of UiO-PQDMAEMA are the main reasons for severe cell membrane disruption, which leads to the death of bacteria. The present work provides a new avenue for combating air contamination by using the QAC-modified MOF-based active filters.