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ABC News Notes Germ-Killing Uses for Plasma Pencil Invented by ODU's Mounir Laroussi

An ABC News story this week by national medical reporter Jenny Chan names the plasma pencil created by Old Dominion University faculty member Mounir Laroussi as one of "Seven Technologies to Ward Off Disease-Causing Microbes."

The pencil, which shoots out a plume of cold plasma up to two inches long, looks something like a miniature light saber. The plume has been shown in early studies to kill germs, such as bacteria that can cause infections or illness, and yet not pose hazards for healthy human cells.

"When emitted from the pencil-shaped device, the plasma charges the surrounding air molecules and creates free radicals, thereby…poking holes in the bacterial cell walls and killing the microbe," Chan reported.

Her story at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ColdandFluNews/Story?id=5987227&page=1 is aimed at people who begin worrying this time of year about the germ season. "With co-workers sneezing into your cubicle and coughing on the coffee cups, the microscopic world of bacteria and viruses can be difficult to ignore during the cold and flu season," according to the story. "Is anything safe to touch?"

But killing germs on surfaces is just one of the disinfectant/sterilization capabilities of the plasma pencil that is mentioned in the story. It also notes the device's potential to disinfect wounds and promote wound healing. "Let's say you have a patient with a cut and burn," the story quotes Laroussi as saying. "Instead of using liquid, you can apply the plasma and kill the bacteria without leaving residue."

More than five years ago, Business Week magazine named Laroussi as one of the nation's leading experts in atmospheric-or cold-plasmas and he has been building research momentum ever since then, much of it supported by funding from the Air Force's Office of Scientific Research.

His work on the plasma pencil has been widely publicized in magazines such as National Geographic.

In September, the scientific and technical publisher Wiley-VCH listed three articles by Laroussi-all of which appeared in the journal Plasma Processes and Polymers-as being among the publisher's most accessed articles during the year ending August 2008. The articles were "Low Temperature Plasma-Based Sterilization: Overview and State-of-the-Art," "Inactivation of Bacteria by the Plasma Pencil," and "Arc-Free Atmospheric Pressure Cold Plasma Jets: A Review."

Laroussi is the director of ODU's Laser and Plasma Engineering Institute and a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the university's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

This article was posted on: October 16, 2008

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