Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Plasma flashlight instantly kills any bacteria on your skin

A new plasma device, created by the joint efforts of the Australian national science agency CSIRO and China’s Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), is capable of ridding your skin from harmful bacteria in just a few seconds. According to a paper submitted to the Journal of Physics last February, the “Portable Plasma Flashlight” is able to burn through 17 different layers of bacteria that could reside on human skin without any tissue damage. With the device emitting plasma that only reaches temperatures between 68 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit, the door has opened to using the technology in the field of medicine.
For years researchers have been looking for a way to make bacteria inactive, and thus non-harmful, to humans. Until this current plasma breakthrough, high levels of heat were required to destroy the harmful micro-organisms making it impractical for medical use. You wouldn’t want a doctor aiming a 185 degree light onto an open wound on your arm would you? The reason for this is the fact that bacteria create thick biofilms to protect themselves from outside anti agents, a sort of molecular armor if you will. While heat and everyday soaps and washing can remove the bacteria, they don’t necessarily render them inert. This is where the plasma flashlight comes in.
While the exact biological process is not fully understood, the theory is that plasma interacts with the air around it to create a reaction that acts like our immune systems. To test out their theories, the joint research team allowed bacteria to culture for seven days to make sure they had a vibrant colony in a petri dish. Upon applying the plasma directly to this grouping of bacteria, the scientists witnessed it not only making the top layer of organisms inactive, but burning all the way down to the very last layers and killing those as well. It was a huge success.
With the fact that the device only costs $100 to manufacture, it’s a good bet that you’ll be seeing this technology available commercially in the near future. The research team sees the units being carried by ambulances, military medical personnel and emergency rooms the world over. It’s also not too far-fetched of an idea that miniaturized versions of the flashlight can be carried in a person’s purse or pocket in place of the bottle of hand sanitizer  that occupies that space now. Right now the large device pictured above is powered by just a 12-volt battery that doesn’t require any kind of external power. In addition, the unit’s plasma processing faculties are entirely self-contained. To control the unit from overheating, resistors have been installed to regulate the unit from becoming too hot to touch.
Some of the more immediate applications reside in your dentist’s office, as the testing for the device was done on Enterococcus faecalis, the bacterial culprit for many of the infections that result from a person undergoing a root canal. Potentially fatal to humans, the bacteria has created a strong immunity to antibiotics over the years. So the next time your dentist tells you to open up and then he shines a light on your teeth and gums, feel secure in knowing that it’s helping to keep you healthy.


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