Scientists Manipulate Plasma to Help Fight Infections

Image Credit: X. Pei et al., Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics

A collaboration of Australian and Chinese researchers has recently come up with a new invention that may prove revolutionary within the field of medicine. This device, referred to as a plasma flashlight, is not a flashlight in the typical sense. Instead, it is designed to help prevent infection by killing the bacteria that make its removal problematic. It is a hand-held, battery operated device that can be easily taken anywhere by those who need it.

Researchers have been testing the invention on biofilms, which form barriers on wounds and make it difficult for doctors to effectively treat infections. It has proven highly successful in this regard so far, taking approximately five minutes to break up the biofilm. Biofilm is a particularly stubborn bacterial structure and scientists theorize that use of the flashlight on normal bacteria would most likely take only a matter of seconds as opposed to minutes.

Though researchers are not quite sure why the plasma works as well as it does against bacteria, it has been proven to work and that is the first step in development. Further, the flashlight operates at room temperatures, which means it will be safe to use directly on patients’ skin.

The current design of the plasma flashlight is a cylinder with a point at the end, resembling a giant crayon. Though portable already, future improvements will aim toward creating a smaller, even more portable version of the device once the technology has been perfected.

The plasma flashlight is but one of many amazing things that are currently being attempted with the manipulation and application of plasma. Already, designs are in the works for such tasks as purifying water, sanitation and treating skin conditions. This small and affordable device is still a long way from being a standard medical treatment, though the potential for plasma technology seems boundless.

[phys.org] [sciencemag.org]

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Category: Science

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