New evidence is reported for TiON sputtered polyester surfaces activated by sunlight irradiation leading to the accelerated bacterial inactivation in the minute range. The absorption in Kubelka-Munk units of the TiON film was observed to be directly proportional to the time of Escherichia coil inactivation as detected by diffuse reflection spectroscopy (DRS). TiON layers were characterized by electron microscopy and by high angle angular dark field (HAADF) showing the continuous coverage of the polyester fibers by the TiON film. Ti4+/Ti3+ redox catalysis was detected on the TiON surface by the XPS shifts during the bacteria inactivation process. Production of HO radicals on TiON polyester as a function of sunlight irradiation was determined following the fluorescence of 2-hydroxyterephthalic acid. Release of Na and K-ions was determined by ICP-MS and provides the evidence that cell wall damage is a preceding step leading the bacterial inactivation. A stable performance of the TiON films was observed during repetitive bacterial inactivation. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.