Before antibiotics were invented, people often used silver, a known antimicrobial that can also be toxic, to tackle infections.
Researchers in the early 1900s also noticed a mysterious and inconsistent effect from using a mild electric current to kill nasty microbes.
Both methods were problematic, though, and were quickly abandoned with the advent of antibiotics, which killed bacteria so effectively throughout the twentieth century.
Now, as the efficacy of conventional antibiotics wanes, Washington State University researchers are reinventing old ideas to fight bacterial infection.
Lai-Sheng Wang has an impish smile, an infectious laugh, and a high-powered research program that studies matter a few atoms at a time.
He uses massive machines to create tiny clusters of atoms. Wang’s clusters aren’t mere lumps. As the magnetic models stuck to his file cabinets show, they are as geometrically elegant as a snowflake.
Wang came to the public’s attention three years ago when his team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland became the first to make golden buckyball, a hollow cage of 16 to 18 gold atoms. He has also worked on clusters of aluminum, another element with a long … » More …