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Printable Low-Powered and Cost Efficient Cold Plasma Technology

Technology Overview

Plasma technology was originally developed for surface treatment to improve surface adhesion of polymers. Recent progress in plasma technology has made it possible to generate plasmas at room-temperature, which is known as non-thermal atmospheric plasma (NTP) or cold plasma. NTP has a unique capability to remove and inactivate bacteria with the absence of harmful residues. In addition, due to the low operating temperature (< 40 deg C), NTP can interact with organic materials without causing thermal damage to the cell surface, and can effectively inactivate different kinds of bacteria without adversely affecting the healthy tissues. However, the technical challenges in generating uniform plasma over non-flat surfaces makes its difficult for NTP to be considered as a reliable form of sterilization.

The technology described herein is related to the development of a flexible, low-powered and cost-efficient NTP source by adapting screen printing method on a Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD) configuration. Using printing techniques, homogeneous non-thermal plasma can be generated over large and complex geometries with low energy cost. The technology provider is seeking for industry partners to commercialise the technology. 

Technology Features & Specifications

Traditional non-thermal plasma sources for sterilization and surface treatment has two inevitable limitations which are flexibility and treatment cost. We are overcoming these technical limitations by employing printed electronics on the fabrication of an electrode system in a non-thermal plasma source. The flexible and printed electrode system can generate non-thermal plasmas over large and complex geometries such as the human body. Using a pulsed high-voltage DC in non-thermal plasma generation significantly improve the energy efficiency of a plasma source, thus allowing the generation of a non-thermal plasma (approx. 50 cm2) with approximately 10W which can be obtained by 6 AA batteries. Moreover, our plasma source can be printed on a paper (normal paper), thus can significantly reduce manufacturing cost and make a disposable plasma source.

Potential Applications

This technology is applicable in the following industries:

  • Health care and Medical equipment
    • Surface sterilization of medical instrument and implant such as luminal endoscope and surgical tools
    • Would healing and sterilization
    • Rapid allergen inactivation
    • Acne and Aesthetic Skin Improvement
    • Next generation of antibiotic
  • Food processing
    • Microbial decontamination of food including sea food
    • Food packaging / preservation
  • Environmental remediation
    • Low-cost water treatment and decontamination
    • Reduction of NOx and SO2 emissions
  • Military applications
    • Decontamination of chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents
    • Photonic crystals (PCs) and metamaterials (MMs)

Market Trends and Opportunities

The global disinfection and sterilization technology market is forecasted to attain UD$ 7.7 billion value by 2032. Recently, stringent medical safety and infection control norms are increasing public awareness of the global population resulting in growing sterilization industries. The annual growth rate of the sterilization technology industries is expecting to grow at 9.0% during 2017 – 2023, which is one of the fastest growing markets. The increasing number of surgical procedures and ageing populating are the major factors expected to propel the growth. In addition, the rise in the incidence of chronic diseases and various initiatives taken by the government to ensure adoption of essential sterilization standards in hospitals & research centres is expected to drive the growth of the sterilization equipment industry during the forecast period. For example, approximately 1,000,000 cases of Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) caused by improper sterilisation are reported each year in England.

Moreover, stricter norms have been introduced to ensure the safety and quality of food with the increasing demand for food supply and the introduction of premium food such as exotic fruits & vegetables. Therefore, food industries have an increasing demand for low-temperature sterilization technologies which can be used in the sterilisation of food without changing the taste, texture, and appearance of the food. Therefore, global food market will spur the growth of non-thermal plasma sterilisation system in the food processing industry.

Customer Benefits

Many traditional cleanings and sterilising products including floor strippers and disinfectants present a variety of human health and environmental concerns. They often contribute to poor indoor air quality and may contain chemicals that cause cancer, reproductive disorders, respiratory ailments, eye and skin irritation, central nervous system impairment, and other human health effects. Compared to chemical sterilisation methods, plasma-assisted sterilisation method uses a highly reactive species to inactivate pathogenic microorganisms. Therefore, it can provide the advantages of safety, thoroughness, fastness, and low temperature sterilisation.

Non-thermal plasmas at atmospheric pressure can be generated by various methods including Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD) and the Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Jet (APPJ). Compared to conventional non-thermal plasma sources, our plasma source has a flexible electrode system thus can generate non-thermal plasma source over large and complex geometries without the use of carrier gases such as helium or argon. The implemented printed electronics in a non-thermal plasma leads customer can manufacture a non-thermal plasma source at significantly low-cost. The printed plasma source can also inactivate microorganisms at low temperatures thus preserving freshness and nutritional qualities.

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