UIM researchers use a plasma reactor to sanitize an airborne model virus. In the experiment the ionized air appeared to eliminate 99.9% of their test sample.
Plasma is a soup of electricity and gaseous ions that radiate light. Inside their non-thermal reactor, borosilicate beads are contained within a cylindrical object. The virus cells flow between each bead, and that is where they are rendered inert by the ionized gas through a process called oxidization.
“In those void spaces, you’re initiating sparks,” Clack said. “By passing through the packed bed, pathogens in the air stream are oxidized by unstable atoms called radicals. What’s left is a virus that has diminished ability to infect cells.”
The relationship between electricity and cell life is two directional. Just as you can restore the energy of your mitochondria with pulsed electromagnetic field therapy so to can we use that same knowledge to prevent the spread of infectious disease.
“The most difficult disease transmission route to guard against is airborne because we have relatively little to protect us when we breathe,” said Herek Clack, U-M research associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.
That is why this discovery is so promising – it may one day protect people against some of the worst forms of chemical warfare.
“The results tell us that nonthermal plasma treatment is very effective at inactivating airborne viruses,” said Krista Wigginton, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “There are limited technologies for air disinfection, so this is an important finding.
Air purifiers exist that can help you deal with some of the basic contaminants in your household, however as far as deadly viral strains are concerned we cannot risk contamination, especially in dominant transportation hubs. Having an emergency cold plasma reactor at these locations could be a good way to save lives in the future.
published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.
Cold plasma can kill 99.9% of airborne viruses