The New York Times recently ran an article discussing the latest research and development in room temperature plasma devices for hand and instrument sterilization. Because the technology essentially kills any living microorganism the plasma gets to, we may be seeing completely new devices appearing soon near hospital sinks, in nurses stations, and, maybe, even in your favorite restaurant.
A snippet from NYT:
Gregor Morfill, who created several prototypes using the technology at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, says the plasma quickly inactivates not only bacteria but also viruses and fungi.
Dr. Morfill and his colleagues have tested their devices on hands and feet. “It works on athlete’s foot,” he said. “And the nice thing is, you don’t have to take your socks off. They are disinfected, too.” (The cleaning takes a bit longer when socks are added to the job, he said — about 25 seconds. “And it doesn’t yet work through shoes,” he added.)
Plasmas engineered to zap microorganisms aren’t new. During the last decade, they have come into use to sterilize some medical instruments. But using them on human tissue is another matter, said Mark Kushner, director of the Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering and a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Many thousands of volts drive the generation of plasma,” he said, “and normally one doesn’t want to touch thousands of volts.” But the design of the new hand sanitizers, he said, protects people from doing so. Reassured by that design, about five years ago he put his naked thumb into a jet of microbe-destroying plasma at the lab of another plasma researcher.