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Mounir Laroussi, associate professor in Old Dominion University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a researcher at the Center for Bioelectrics, won attention several years ago by developing a process that used ultraviolet light to kill harmful organisms in the ballast water of ships.

Now he has invented a type of ultraviolet lamp that is designed to be ultra efficient and can be used in numerous industrial applications.

His patent, titled "Electrodeless Excimer UV Lamp," was published in late February.
Laroussi, who also holds three patents in the field of plasmas and applications, was named in 2001, along with ODU's Karl H. Schoenbach, eminent scholar of electrical and computer engineering, as being among the nation's experts in cold plasma (ionized, or electrically charged gas). Plasma is called the fourth state of matter along with solid, liquid and gas. It is at work in fluorescent and UV lighting.

Another member of the ODU faculty, Fred Dobbs, associate professor of oceanography, worked with Laroussi to develop the process by which UV light could be used to kill harmful organisms imported in the ballast water of foreign ships. A goal of their work was to find an inexpensive way to kill harmful microorganisms before the ballast water is discharged into U.S. ports and other coastal waters. The work of Laroussi and Dobbs was funded by the National Seagrant College Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Laroussi's invention is a UV lamp with small, external ring electrodes. A disadvantage in the commercially available excimer lamps is that the outer electrode is a wire mesh that covers the cylindrical surface of the lamp, impeding the UV light. Also, the internal electrode contributes to contamination of the cylinder's gaseous discharge, curtailing the life of the lamp.

Applications of the invention, other than for water purification, could be to disinfect surfaces, cure paint and ink, and modify the surface of polymers.

Before joining the ODU Applied Research Center in 1998, Laroussi studied at the University of Technical Sciences of Tunisia, the School of Radio-electricity in Bordeaux, France, and received a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee. He received the 1996 Advanced Technology Award from the Inventors Clubs of America.

The Center for Bioelectrics where he is a researcher is operated in Norfolk by ODU and Eastern Virginia Medical School. Researchers there have broken new ground in studying how electromagnetic fields and ionized gases interact with biological cells. One process under development uses very short pulses of electricity to kill cancer cells and harmful bacteria. Schoenbach is the director of the center.

This article was posted on: February 28, 2005

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