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ODU's Laroussi Tapped for Inaugural Award From International Society for Plasma Medicine

Fifteen years ago, Mounir Laroussi began an experiment to investigate the effects of atmospheric temperature, or "cold" plasma, on bacteria.

That experiment led him on a career-changing path, ultimately making him one of the world's leaders in cold plasma research, particularly its effects on living cells. Laroussi is an electrical engineering professor in Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology and director of ODU's Laser and Plasma Engineering Institute.

The International Society for Plasma Medicine (ISPM) will recognize Laroussi's research efforts with the inaugural International Society for Plasma Medicine Award for his contributions to the development of plasma medicine as a field. He's one of three researchers worldwide being honored this year.

"This is obviously the first year of this award. We plan to announce the recipients at this year's International Conference on Plasma Medicine in Norfolk (June 20-24), and present the award at the International Conference on Plasma Medicine in September," wrote Gary Friedman, ISPM secretary, in a letter of congratulations to Laroussi.

"I had no idea that this would grow into a field of research, much less that I would get some sort of award for it from my peers," Laroussi said. "I was simply a curious researcher who wanted to find out what happens to living cells when they come in contact with plasmas. Luckily, other people got interested and the whole thing snowballed."

Plasma is an electrically charged gas, known colloquially as the "fourth state of matter." It's contained in things like fluorescent lights and televisions. The plasma Laroussi studies is called "cold" because it is made at room temperature.

The true value of cold plasmas is still being determined - by Laroussi and other researchers around the world. The plume of plasma emitted from Laroussi's "plasma pencil," a device that can be manufactured for a relatively modest price, has shown promise as an agent to kill bacteria, something that can be useful for sterilization and in areas as diverse as wound treatment and dental hygiene.

The June conference in Norfolk, which Laroussi is chairing, will bring together the world's leaders in cold plasma research. "Most of the who's who in the field will be giving lectures about their latest results. Very exciting," Laroussi said.

"I keep being surprised when I see that this still emerging field of research (the biomedical applications of plasmas) keeps growing at such a fast pace. It's completely unexpected. So to get this inaugural award is really very satisfying."

This article was posted on: March 29, 2010

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