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Cold plasma


What’s in news?

A nonthermal plasma reactor was able to inactivate or remove from the air-stream 99.9 per cent of a test virus, with the vast majority due to inactivation.

Key data’s:

  • A Study proved, Cold plasma can kill 99.9 per cent of airborne viruses
  • Dangerous airborne viruses can be rendered harmless on-the-fly when exposed to ‘cold plasma’.
  • The study was conducted by the team from University of Michigan in the US, with a hope to replace the surgical mask. Airborne disease is relatively little to protect us when we breathe, and airborne are one of the most difficult transmission route.
  • This experiment has a parallel approach which has combining filtration and inactivation of airborne pathogens. It is the most efficient way rather than the existing method filtration and ultraviolet light. Traditional masks operate using only filtration for protection.
  • Also this experiment was tried and tested in the International Space Station is now being harnessed to kill drug-resistant bacteria and viruses that can cause infections. The very first plasma chamber was installed aboard the Station back in 2001, by cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev. The latest fourth-generation follow-on is still running on the ISS to this day.


  • A model virus, which is harmless to humans, was pumped into the flowing air as it entered a reactor. Inside the reactor, borosilicate glass beads are packed into a cylindrical shape, or bed. The viruses in the air flow through the spaces between the beads and that is where they are inactivated.
  • By passing through the packed bed, pathogens in the air stream are oxidised by radicals, an unstable atom. What’s left is a virus that has diminished ability to infect cells.
  • Exposure to this forms small holes in the membranes of bacterial cells and destroy their DNA, while human cells are not so easily damaged.
  • Researchers also tracked the amount of viral genome that was present in the air. By this way, researchers were able to determine that more than 99 per cent of the air sterilising effect was due to inactivating the virus that was present, with the remainder of the effect due to filtering the virus from the air stream.
  • Achieved these results in a fraction of a second within a stream of air holds promise for many applications where sterile air supplies are needed.


  • Plasmas are usually hot gases but here, due to the developed methods, it’s generating in room temperature as ‘cold plasma’.
  • The idea was born to make use of cold plasma against bacteria in infected wounds without harming the patient. Initial treatment was for infected chronic wounds such as leg ulcers. Initial clinical trials showed significant reduction in bacterial burden of infected wounds, supporting healing and pain relief.

Way forward:

A new “terraplasma medical” was set up to develop a smaller portable, battery-driven cold plasma medical device.

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