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Mounir Laroussi has won the gold! Laroussi, an electrical engineering research professor at Old Dominion, has been awarded the prestigious 2nd Millennium Graduate Of the Last Decade (GOLD) Medal by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society.

The award, which really is a gold medal, is given to only one scientist in each of the IEEE's 35 societies worldwide. And, as a millennium award, it is given once every thousand years.

"I was very surprised and shocked that they chose me, but I was very pleased," said Laroussi. "(The society) has only one to give throughout the world and just to chose me was very flabbergasting."

According to Igor Alexeff, president of the Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society, Laroussi was selected for his achievements in the area of atmospheric pressure plasmas, in which he has several patents and numerous publications.

Laroussi's most recent work with cold plasma at the Applied Research Center (ARC) in Newport News was featured recently in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginian-Pilot and Associated Press, among other state and regional newspapers.

Along with Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences assistant professor Fred Dobbs and other colleagues at ARC, Laroussi has invented a way to more cheaply produce cold plasma, which holds great potential for treating biological warfare attacks, disinfecting hospital equipment and protecting military vehicles from microwave-beam weapons.

Plasma is ionized, or electrically charged, gas and has come to be known as the "fourth state of matter," along with solid, liquid and gas. Arc welding, fluorescent lighting, the Northern Lights and the sun are all instances of plasma. Laroussi's plasma is called "cold" because it is made at room temperature.

His method of producing cold plasma uses a $100 device bought at electronic supply stores that can plug into a wall outlet instead of a $12,000 power amplifier and transformer.

Laroussi's work on plasma began several years ago when he was at the University of Tennessee. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded Laroussi's study of military applications of plasma. That research led to him exploring the effects of plasma on cells.

Currently, Laroussi and Dobbs are conducting studies to see how effective plasma is at killing biological agents. Preliminary tests on a strain of E. coli have shown that plasma can penetrate spore casings and scramble the contents, according to Laroussi, who noted that anthrax, like E. coli, travels via spores.

This article was posted on: December 13, 1999

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