Plasmas are typically hot, often generated by heating gasses to the point that molecular bonds break and ions in large quantities are created. While plasmas can be used to sterilize objects, the heat can destroy the very objects being cleaned. There are cold plasmas though, and researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine have been testing how effective a new device that generates such plasmas is at sterilizing today’s cell phones.
The SteriFre is a desktop device invented by Cornell alumnus Dr. Czeslaw Golkowski that bathes objects in cold plasma. It is considerably smaller than other devices that produce cold plasma at such scale, and is small enough for use in clinical environments. It generates large quantities of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that are toxic to biological samples. The research testing the SteriFre capabilities was headed by Dr. Jason Spector, a professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Fifty one cellular phones from different manufacturers, including Apple, Samsung, and Blackberry, were collected from volunteers working at the clinic. The phones were broken up into two groups, the first of which was put into the SteriFre device for five minutes and the others for ten. Swab samples were taken from the phones before and after treatment. The swab samples were then allowed to culture and multiply during the next 24 hours.
The results showed that the phones that were treated for five minutes had a 93% drop in bacterial count while the ones that were in the machine for ten minutes were completely free of bacterial pathogens on the surface. Importantly, the cell phones continued functioning as normal without having any visible aesthetic damage.
Study in journal Plasma Medicine: Rapid Sterilization of Cell Phones Using a Novel Portable Non-Thermal Plasma Device…