Who would have thought television could be good for you? Researchers at the University of York in the U.K. have transformed a chemical compound found in LCD television sets into an anti-microbial substance that destroys infections such as Escherichia coli and some strains of Staphylococcus aureus. The treated polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) could potentially also be used in tissue scaffolds to help parts of the body regenerate, pills and dressings that deliver drugs, and hospital cleaning products to prevent infection.

Discarded electrical products and components, collectively known as e-waste, are either considered a toxic nightmare or a potential windfall in terms of reclaimed and recycled materials.

Dr Andrew Hunt, of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence in the University's Department of Chemistry, said: “The influence of LCDs on modern society is dramatic – it is estimated that 2.5 billion LCDs are approaching the end of their life, and they are the fastest growing waste in the European Union.

“But we can add significant value to this waste. By heating then cooling the PVA and then dehydrating it with ethanol we can produce a high surface area mesoporous material that has great potential for use in biomedicine."

The researchers found that adding silver nanoparticles enhanced the anti-microbial properties of the substance, enabling it to destroy bacterial infections.

The next stage will be to test the PVA-based substance against commercial compounds to determine its effectiveness, and then to secure regulatory approval regarding the suitability of silver nanoparticles for human health applications.