Porous Cellulose Thin Films as Sustainable and Effective Antimicrobial Surface Coatings

Shaojun Qi, Ioannis Kiratzis, Pavan Adoni, Aekkachai Tuekprakhon, Harriet James Hill, Zania Stamataki, Aneesa Nabi, David Waugh, Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez, Stuart Matthew Clarke, Peter J. Fryer, Zhenyu J. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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In the present work, we developed an effective antimicrobial surface film based on sustainable microfibrillated cellulose. The resulting porous cellulose thin film is barely noticeable to human eyes due to its submicrometer thickness, of which the surface coverage, porosity, and microstructure can be modulated by the formulations and the coating process. Using goniometers and a quartz crystal microbalance, we observed a threefold reduction in water contact angles and accelerated water evaporation kinetics on the cellulose film (more than 50% faster than that on a flat glass surface). The porous cellulose film exhibits a rapid inactivation effect against SARS-CoV-2 in 5 min, following deposition of virus-loaded droplets, and an exceptional ability to reduce contact transfer of liquid, e.g., respiratory droplets, to surfaces such as an artificial skin by 90% less than that from a planar glass substrate. It also shows excellent antimicrobial performance in inhibiting the growth of both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria (Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis) due to the intrinsic porosity and hydrophilicity. Additionally, the cellulose film shows nearly 100% resistance to scraping in dry conditions due to its strong affinity to the supporting substrate but with good removability once wetted with water, suggesting its practical suitability for daily use. Importantly, the coating can be formed on solid substrates readily by spraying, which requires solely a simple formulation of a plant-based cellulose material with no chemical additives, rendering it a scalable, affordable, and green solution as antimicrobial surface coating. Implementing such cellulose films could thus play a significant role in controlling future pan- and epidemics, particularly during the initial phase when suitable medical intervention needs to be developed and deployed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20638-20648
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/),
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited


We acknowledge financial support from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EP/V029762/1) and FiberLean Technologies for kindly providing microfibrillated cellulose samples. Z.S., A.T., and H.J.H. are supported by a Medical Research Foundation intermediate career fellowship to Z.S. (MRF-169-0001-F-STAM-C0826, UK Research and Innovation).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society.


  • antimicrobial
  • cellulose
  • evaporation
  • film
  • robustness
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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