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Ionized plasmas as cheap sterilizers for developing world
Date:11/15/2011

disinfectants and for direct medical therapy, said Graves.

Graves recently focused on medical applications of plasmas after working for more than 20 years on low-temperature plasmas of the kind used to etch semiconductors. While sparks in air typically create hot plasmas of partially ionized and dissociated oxygen and nitrogen, a very brief spark creates similar molecules without heating the air. The reactive oxygen and nitrogen created by the plasma will diffuse into nearby liquids or skin, where they can kill microbes similar to the way some drugs and immune cells kill microbes by generating very similar or even identical reactive chemicals.

Despite the widespread use of plasmas, however, they are still not well characterized, Graves said. Plasma created in air, for example, produces different molecules than plasma in helium or argon. Much needs to be learned about different ways of producing plasmas, including plasma needles and jets, and how to maximize exposure against skin or liquid, such as by confining the plasma-generated chemicals near the surface of the treated object.

"I'm a chemical engineer who applies physics and chemistry to understanding plasmas," Graves said. "It's exciting to now look for ways to apply plasmas in medicine."


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Contact: Robert Sanders
rsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert  

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