Study: Cold Plasma can annihilate 99.9% of airborne viruses

Artistic Image of Viruses

We live in a world where threat from airborne viruses is increasing at an unprecedented rate. We don’t know what we breathe nor we can control our breathing — WHO says that microorganisms causing tuberculosis and legionellosis can easily be transmitted through air-conditioning systems. To tackle this problem, researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study which shows some promising results.

According to the study, the researchers used cold plasma — also called cold or non-equilibrium plasma as the plasma in not on thermodynamic equilibrium — to deactivated the virus, thus sterilising the air. They also calculated the kill speed and the method’s effectiveness, the non-thermal plasma reactor was able to deactivate and remove about 99.9% of the test virus used and that too in a fraction of a second.

The results of the test are just amazing, if true, we can have sterilised air wherever needed.

The experiment

To measure the effectiveness of their method, the researchers pumped a test airborne virus into the cold plasma reactor. Inside the reactor, the team used borosilicate glass breads with small space in-between — through which the air will pass. As soon as the air with the virus passed through these glass breads, the virus deactivated.

During the experiment, the researchers also tracked the amount of viral genome present in the air. The team found that after passing air through the rector, the reactor was able to achieve 99% sterilising effect — mostly by deactivating the virus and the rest by filtering it.

Details regarding the experiment and the results are both published in “Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics”.

The Future

With the constantly rising airborne threats, there is need for such a system that can clean the air at exceptional speeds. This experiment if coupled with advance virus filtration methods like UV filtration can provide a fast and efficient way of deactivating and removing viruses from the air.

Also, there are news that the team is now testing their rector at a livestock farm near Ann Arbor — they may try to remove viruses that cause various diseases in animals.