Plasma is hot: a few weeks ago we reported about a new atmospheric plasma technology to create sealed plastic bags which are suitable for cell culture. Now a research group headed by David Graves from the University of Berkeley, California has shown that ionized plasma does not only sterilize water, but can make it antimicrobial as well. They will report their findings this month in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Graves and his colleagues report that the water treated with plasma killed all the E.coli bacteria that were put into it within a few hours, and after seven days the water continued to kill 99.9% of the bacteria put into it at that time. Interestingly, they also showed that plasma can get rid of dangerous proteins and lipids like prions that standard sterilization processes leave behind.
Due to the low cost of devices which produce ionized plasma, it could be of great help in areas where there is a shortage of sterile water, like developing countries or battlefield areas. Clean water is a daily need, but also of medical importance. With antimicrobial properties water could also help fight infectious diseases, which is a major health problem in developing countries.
The research group will continue working on the possibilities of low-temperature plasmas. It could very well turn out to be a life-saver in developing countries and an improvement on current medical instrument sterilization and wound healing techniques.
UC Berkeley link: Using ionized plasmas as cheap sterilizers for developing world