We have encountered several issues to prevent the spread of coronavirus. One particular issue is its ability to stay alive on surfaces for several hours. Though we have the option to clean the surfaces of hard materials or sterilizing them with alcohol, the same can’t be done with delicate materials such as cardboard.
Using Plasma To Deactivate The Coronavirus
The coronavirus has been found to survive even in the atmosphere for a few hours and on cardboard it can survive for nearly 24 hours. On plastic too it was detected three days after contamination occurred. Scientists from all disciplines have been working hard to stop this pandemic. Now, a group led by engineer Zhitong Chen from the University of California in Los Angeles may have developed a solution. They just performed an experiment using cold plasma and found that it is able to kill the virus on a variety of surfaces without causing damage to the material.
Aerospace engineer Richard Wirz states, “Air is the source for all things that we use. Air and electricity is a good combination to kill the virus without enduring any side effects.” Plasma is the rarely known state of matter other than solid, liquid and gas. It is naturally found in the upper atmosphere and is formed when electrons separate from their parent atoms. This separation causes a mix of charged particles to be created which are very unstable and reactive.
Cold plasma was already found to be effective against bacteria that were resistant to drugs. It causes changes on the structure of their surface and DNA without causing harm to the human tissue. It was found to be effective even against cancer cells. The team of scientists modeled and 3D-printed an atmospheric plasma jet device powered by argon. The team used argon because of its inertness and stability and also its abundance in air.
How The Device Works
The setup transmits high speed electrons via the gas, causing the gas to lose its outermost electrons as collision occurs. The plasma jet requires just 12 W of constant power supply to function. The team used a near-room-temperature jet of plasma and directed it on contaminated surfaces, In a way, they exposed the surfaces to an electric current, charged atoms and molecules (ions), and UV radiation.
The team tested the device on six different surfaces that comprised of cardboard, football leather, plastic and metal. They found that most of the viral particles on the surfaces of each these materials were rendered inactive after just 30 seconds. Three minutes of exposure to the plasma eliminated 100% of the virus. The team thinks that the viral particles were eliminated by the reactive oxygen and nitrogen ions, formed due to the interaction of the plasma with air. When they used helium based plasma device, they found that even five minutes of exposure wasn’t sufficient to eliminate the viral particles.
The researchers explained that as the charged particles accumulated on the surface of the virion, they damaged its outer envelope causing it to burst open. The charged particles can also damage the structurally vital bonds. Especially those bonds between two carbon atoms, carbon and oxygen, and carbon and nitrogen atoms. The effects of plasma on various bacterial and viral cells have revealed damage to their outer covering containing vital proteins. This research was published in Physics of Fluids.