A collaboration of experts in the United States says that neon lights and plasma TV produce a type of ionized plasma that can be used to treat potentially-contaminated water in the developing world.
The team carried out a series of tests that revealed the efficiency of such a treatment. Results showed that ionized plasma could act as an antimicrobial agent for as much as a week after the initial treatment.
Having access to water that is not contaminated by bacteria or microbes could mean a considerable boon in public health for countries that have only known famine and disease over the past few decades.
Scientists from the University of California in Berkeley
(UCB) say that the sterilization of water is currently a cost- and resource-intensive process that can only be completed in specialized installations.
Their plan is to create a host of technologies that would allow individuals or local communities to handle their own water supply, disinfecting it on the spot. This would finally enable billions of people to gain access to fresh and clean water sources.
“We know plasmas will kill bacteria in water, but there are so many other possible applications, such as sterilizing medical instruments or enhancing wound healing,” research scientist David Graves explains.
“We could come up with a device to use in the home or in remote areas to replace bleach or surgical antibiotics,” adds Graves, who holds an appointment as the UCB Lam Research Distinguished professor in semiconductor processing, and is also a chemical engineer at the university.
Low-temperature, ionized plasma could also have a host of other applications, most notably on the battlefield, or in other areas where more advanced (and expensive) technologies are not available.
“One of the most difficult problems associated with medical facilities in low-resource countries is infection control. It is estimated that infections in these countries are a factor of three-to-five times more widespread than in the developed world,” Graves goes on to say.
According to a paper published in the November issue of the esteemed scientific Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, it would appear that ionized plasma is capable of killing E. coli bacteria with great efficiency. Upon first contact, the substance destroyed all of the microorganisms.
Even a week after the water was treated with plasma, about 99.9 percent of E. coli bacteria introduced in the test sample were killed within a brief period. These results are extremely promising, as they offer a low-cost alternative to more expensive equipment.
“The field of low-temperature plasmas is booming, and this is not just hype. It’s real!” Graves concludes.