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back to article PLASMA GERM BLASTER GUN invented for cleaning skin

A handheld plasma blaster that can beam away 17 layers of bacteria could be used in medical emergencies to clean skin and wounds, said a physics boffin presenting the device in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics today. The plasma gun or "flashlight" requires just a 5V battery to produce enough cold plasma to kill even …

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Could this be the new bleach

Sounds good, feels good. This could go far.

Only thing that I wonder on anything that kills bacteria is that even if they don't kill them all then you have created more space for the realy bad ones and if you do kill them all you've made space for new bad ones. Evolution is not limited to humans I hear.

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Silver badge

Re: Could this be the new bleach

But with bleach you know exactly where you've washed because the surface is wet. I expect using this device to clean a kitchen is akin to pressure washing a patio - great in theory, a nightmare in practice.

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Holmes

Re: Could this be the new bleach

What you do is the 'competitive exclusion' method. Once the bacteria you want dead is gone, you spray known good bacteria in its place. These out compete with other species by sheer numbers.

People use this method in waste control plants and in the Aquarium/pond hobby to greatly reduce disease causing bacteria. Works too.

Be kind of cute to see a nurse armed with a ray gun killing a room of bacteria! :)

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Re: Could this be the new bleach

'competitive exclusion' method <---cool. :)))

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jai
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awesome

When can I get one for my kitchen??

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting

Nearly a decade ago I saw a BBC News web article about plasma, and how it was to be used for space travel (Deep Space 1 test probe), medical hygiene (sterilise instruments, similar to this story - aha, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2984843.stm), and that it's possible use plasma as a shield to reflect, or perhaps rather to absorb and disperse/defocus, EM energy (i.e. lasers) in space (due to no atmosphere to disrupt plasma).

When I tried to find the combined article again to show a friend, it had disappeared, and all I could find was the ion drive and medical stuff.

Has anyone else seen anything about the latter defensive use of plasma? Always seemed like a good one for satellites, given China's demonstrated ground->space laser tricks.

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Boffin

Re: Interesting

Plasmas have certainly been tried as a means of radar stealth for aircraft (i.e. absorbing/shielding from EM emissions) - see for example

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_stealth#Absorption_of_EM_radiation

http://defensetech.org/2006/03/30/stealths-radioactive-secret/

It's also been proposed as a means of "inflating" a magnetic field to act as a (very) lightweight solar sail:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_sail#Mini-magnetospheric_plasma_propulsion

http://www.ess.washington.edu/Space/M2P2/STAIF2000.PDF

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But...........................

Can it mount on a shark?

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Holmes

Violet Ray

The Violet Ray machines popular since the 1920s did exactly this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violet_ray. They provided a mixture of ultraviolet light, ionization, and ozone on the surface of the skin.

This machine may be a new implementation, but it's hardly a new idea.

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Re: Violet Ray

The last thing you want near a human is ozone. It's toxic at the smell threshold. With luck the sort of machine you refer to smelled of oxides of nitrogen rather than ozone (not that you want to breath them either, but at least they're less toxic).

This plasma device sounds interesting, but will it fail in the same way as aqueous bactericides? You can't zap the blighters if they've got a protective coat around them. In the case of skin, it's not a shiny surface with a thin film of bacteria on it. The surface of skin is a messy, porous construction of dead skin cells with bacteria in the spaces between them. Those bacteria are well protected. That plasma had better be able to penetrate further than 25 micrometres. I'd rather my would-be surgeon scrubbed with povidone iodine.

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Re: Violet Ray

"Violet ray" and "violet wand" devices do generate ozone, as (IIRC) does anything else that produces an electrical arc in air.

Fair point regarding biofilms on the skin surface -- it's an open question, at least here among the commentards, whether the test described by the researchers had any relationship to the situation that'd be found when attempting to kill bacteria on human skin. I don't have time to read the paper, even if it's available without a damned journal subscription; if someone else does, I'd be interested to hear the result.

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Silver badge

Call me crazy...

but I'd be a little leary of using this on a human until we know exactly why it kills the bacteria. If it damages human cells as well it could well do more harm than good.

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Skin includes a nice thick

layer of dead cells -- if it takes five minutes for this thing to burn through 25 micrometers (that's .025mm) of E. fecalis biofilm, it doesn't seem too likely to go through human tissue like an electric carving knife, does it? You'd probably be safe enough using it to clean your teeth -- in fact, I can see that being an excellent application of the technology, dental biofilms being the incredibly resilient things that they are.

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Anonymous Coward

Only thing is 'flashlight' would make people think of a torch, as this is for skin perhaps they should call it a 'fleshlig.. ' oh hang on... no, nevermind

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Boffin

Temperature

"the plasma's heat ranges from 20 to 23°C"

No, that's its temperature.

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Re: Temperature

That is why I don't think that it's really a plasma, but is an ion beam. High voltage (and low power) ion generators have been in use for a while as air purifier/fresheners, the idea being that the ions induce chemical dissociation of nasty smelling substances in the air.

The same principle (in a directed ion beam) would damage bacteria enough to kill them.

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Re: Temperature

definition of plasma: an ionized state of matter similar to a gas..

DO check your details!!! :)

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Silver badge

Re: Temperature

A plasma is a very, very hot state of matter in which the thermal energy is so great that the electrons are knocked away from the nucleus and keep getting knocked away even if they manage to recombine due to electrostatic attraction.

If an electron gets ripped from a nitrogen or oxygen molecule in the air and then gets blown away in a gentle breeze by electrostatic repulsion from the electrode that caused this, then that is a different state of matter. A collection of ions is not a plasma, but a plasma is a (very hot) collection of ions.

I have felt the gentle breeze coming from an ion generator as it blew over my fingertip. I would not want to feel a stream of plasma blowing over my fingertip. Hence my trying to draw the distinction.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Temperature

The paper says "Only 60 mW dc power is required to sustain the discharge".

The schematic shows a DC to AC converter powering an array of needles that generate the "plasma". It looks like a typical ion generator to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Temperature

From the paper: "This handheld plasma jet is driven by a 12 V battery... With the input

voltage of 12 V, the output voltage of the dc booster reaches 10 kV. An array of 12 stainless steel needles is used as an electrode. The radius of the needle tips is ∼50 µm. The ballast resistors R1 and R2 (both 50 M ) are used to limit the discharge current. This is made to minimize the plasma heating and electric shock effects on the human body and to make it safe to touch"

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Astonishing that such thin films have so *many* layers of cells in them.

Makes you wonder how many layers there are sitting on the average human skin layer.

Butt his does sound like just the thing for a toilet that has not had proper attention for a while, does it not?

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No

Again: Five minutes to go through twenty-five micrometers (.025mm) of biofilm -- for comparison, that's about half the diameter of an average human hair. If the mess you're cleaning up is thick enough to be clearly visible on the surface of the toilet, you're going to need to bathe it in plasma for so long that it'd be much more worth your time to put on a pair of kitchen gloves and just scour the bloody thing.

Also: Yes, I see what you did there. I do not approve.

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Thumb Up

Re: Astonishing that such thin films have so *many* layers of cells in them.

People often don't realise that bacteria builds skyscraper layers of membranes many layers thick. So whilst the top layers die from exposure to chemicals, light, etc. the under layers remain untouched. Which is why you need to scrub hard!

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Pint

17 *layers* of bacteria?

Holy crap, but that would remove *all* of George Osborne's facial features!!!

He'd end up looking like Beaker from muppets. We'd have to test them to find out which is which (beaker would obviously be the one that passed a basic competency test)

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Silver badge

Re: 17 *layers* of bacteria?

Nono, what you do is expose them to a bad idea. Osbourne would be the one that ran towards it.

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If 5 minutes burned through 0.025 mm...

Then one could assume that it would takes much longer than that to get through even 1mm of something like human skin. Knowing that, we could assume that it would probably be safe for humans to be exposed to this for up to several hours. Assuming that to be true, this would be brilliant in public restrooms; any given person is only going to spend less than an hour a day in there, but all the bacteria left behind would be burned to a crisp. Similarly, kitchen counters could have a device like this situated over them, as could drinking fountains, even keyboards or public telephones (do those even exist these days?).

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Stop

Re: If 5 minutes burned through 0.025 mm...

Ouch! My eyes are burning at the thought of it!

(No dead cells on the surface of the eye, 'though there is an aqueous film.

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Joke

Re: If 5 minutes burned through 0.025 mm...

Burned to a crisp, hhehehee... Just as long as they are not burned into CRISPS.... Wouldn't want THESE to be recycled into snacks...

Would give a whole new twist (not the Twists snack, mind you, hhahaha) on "Soylent Green is PEOPLE"... Just recycle the detritus left behind and have trucks vacuum it up like the ones that steal used cooking oil from behind restaurants.

Butt ass for 5 minutes, this tech could be a BOON for the adult toys industry... 5 minutes to 30 minutes of pulsing plasma....

Call it "PlasMastics"....

Then again, it could be useful on public transit, too. A seat sensor would know when someone stood up, ostensibly leaving the seat. Then deodorizers and "plasmatizers" could sanitize seats vacated by some of the most mobile and formidable germs/bac(k)teria (If V'ger had a say in it, hehehehe) that get to a seat by way of expelled vapor(s) and perspiration.

For certain situations, like MedEvac, this might be useful in a sort of sleeping bag enclosure for non-bleeding persons (or pets?) in transport to medical facilities. Just zip up the person and plug the bag in to the Ambulance. Don't know if this would cause any brownouts if plugged in en mass...

Plasma bibs for drooling adults, anyone?

Of course, these sold in the hundreds of millions could spell doom for the atmosphere...

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@ArmanX

Yes, brilliant idea - irradiate anything which moves, or stands still!

Not dissimilar to the idea of putting fluoride in drinking water throughout the land.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If 5 minutes burned through 0.025 mm...

"Call it "PlasMastics"...."

Would it come with the insulation tape nipple covers or would you have to provide your own?

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Black Helicopters

Decontamination chambers

I just geeked out, thinking of having Decontamination chambers in the lobbies of hospitals. Kind of like when they made people wash their feet and tires when leaving or entering farms when they were scared of avian flu.

Think of it, hospitals, schools, airports.. any high concentrations of germs/bacteria, bathe people in these beams of ions as they walk through entrances... Wouldn't kill things inside the people, but I wonder how effective that would be.

Also the image of the nurse scouring the hospital room with her plasma-power torch is very amusing to me.

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Devil

5 minutes?

WHO is going to put their hands in one of these for 5 minutes?

It's hard enough to get them to take 30 seconds to wash their hands as it is.

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Facepalm

*Sigh*

The problem is we should be using LESS anti-bacterial not making more ways to kill them.

The human immune system is based on exposure to this kind of thing, ever since anti-bacterial cleaners, ever more effective dust removal and the progressive move away from outdoor activities (playing in the dirt) kids have started to develop more and more allergies and have started developing other similar ailments all because their immune system didn't get the jump-start it needed when they were babies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: *Sigh*

"kids have started to develop more and more allergies ... because their immune system didn't get the jump-start it needed when they were babies."

I have heard this idea and on the surface it has a certain plausibility but is it backed up by actual hard verifiable research at all?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: *Sigh*

Erm, the vast majority of our medical knowledge? You don't just have immunity to bacteria, it is something that develops through 'practice' like more obvious things such as coordination and balance. When the immune system works out how to beat a virus, traces of the immune response remain dormant within you after fighting it off. Then if your body is faced with a new infection, any of your existing antibodies that are effective are called into action.

The net effect is you can be exposed to some agent that your system already knows how to beat and not get sick. Vaccination works this way, it was discovered way back when that people who had beaten the cowpox were immune to the deadly smallpox.

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Re: *Sigh*

Admittedly, I understand the desire for additional verification of anything John Travolta's made a movie about -- but, yeah, this one time, it's legit.

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Happy

Easy solution to that.

Hookworm.

Seriously. Hookworm. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/health/01iht-01prof.14122951.html?pagewanted=all

Sure, it gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies just thinking about it, but... No, wait, on second thought, maybe the bacteria are better.

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units

"The plasma gun or "flashlight" requires just a 5V battery to..." of course volts are neither a unit of energy or power so this statement is useless for judging the (electrical) efficency of this method. Since it is mentioned that it is handheld and cheap I must asssume the power requirements are fairly low though. All in all I don't guess I had anything of consequence to say.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: units

Article says 5v battery, the abstract of the paper says 12v battery. I have an idea that it is actually a 12v battery

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Anonymous Coward

Re: units

"This handheld plasma jet is driven by a 12 V battery" "With the input

voltage of 12 V, the output voltage of the dc booster reaches

10 kV" "Only 60 mW dc power is required to sustain the discharge"

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Anonymous Coward

Set phasers to

Sterilise..

Had to be said :-)

This is probably based on helium one atmosphere DBD plasma or similar.

Only problem I can see is that some sensitive electronics would be damaged by ESD.

AC/DC

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TRT
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Hey guys, guys, guys; back up a second...

when was the last time you saw a 5V battery, huh?

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Headmaster

Re: Hey guys, guys, guys; back up a second...

5V battery?

Errm, probably the last time was when I made a battery from four NiMH or NiCd cells? Let's see, that's probably when I replaced the AAs in my keyboard this morning.

(A battery is made of N voltaic cells, N>0)

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Re: Hey guys, guys, guys; back up a second...

Yeah, that'd be a 4.8 volt battery. Close but no cigar. I can't think of a cell chemistry that would allow a 5v battery.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hey guys, guys, guys; back up a second...

The article is wrong on that, the abstract says it works from a 12v battery

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Joke

'The plasma gun or "flashlight"'

Shirley you mean "fleshlight"?

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