Engineers and scientists from UCLA have demonstrated a new technique for killing the coronavirus on surfaces. The technique uses near-room-temperature, cold atmospheric plasma and can kill the coronavirus present on various surfaces in as little as 30 seconds. The team notes this is the first time cold plasma has been shown to effectively and quickly disinfect surfaces contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus can remain infectious for tens of hours on surfaces making the UCLA breakthrough very important to help slow the virus’s spread. Lead researcher on the study Richard Wirz says that their experiment’s result is “really exciting” and shows the potential of cold atmospheric plasma as a safe and effective way to fight transmission of the virus on a wide range of surfaces.
The researchers also want to be clear that plasma, in this case, isn’t to be confused with blood plasma. The plasma used by the researchers is an electrically charged gas known as the fourth state of matter. Plasma has electrons and charged ions accounting for its primary makeup. The plasma used in the experiment was created by subjecting air and argon gas to a strong electric field across electrodes inside a spray jet constructed using a 3D printer.
The jet ionizes the surrounding air and turns it into a cold atmospheric plasma killing most of the virus after 30 seconds. The team also saw similar results with cotton from facemask, leather from a basketball, football, and baseball were also used to test the method’s effectiveness. The leather was used to test the efficacy of disinfecting sports equipment and to simulate the rough and wrinkled surface of the skin.
The researchers believe that cold plasma is a potential candidate to kill the coronavirus when airborne, but that requires further study. The research was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research with additional support from the Geffen School of Medicine and the Broad Stem Cell Research Institute.