Ground-breaking project to use plasma jets to decontaminate essential medical equipment exposed to the Covid-19 virus

A new project developed by Lancaster University’s Health Innovation Campus and Material Science Institute is researching the use of pioneering technology to decontaminate vital medical equipment exposed to the Covid-19 virus, via a partnership with University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT).

The new project will explore how cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) jets can be used to clean apparatus using electrically excited gases which can operate safely in air. Equipment could include diaphragms of stethoscopes and pulse-oximeters, which are sensitive to harsh chemicals or abrasive materials. It is believed the plasma cleaning process will be able to reduce the amount of cleaning time required, eliminate risk of chemical exposure and decrease the potential for antimicrobial resistance.

Professor Rob Short, director of the Material Science Institute, said: “The current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted multi-layered issues within hospital and public environments relating to the transmission of viruses. Primary transmission routes include infectious droplets through the air and person-to-person contact, but contact with contaminated surfaces potentially provides another route. The quantity of virus on a surface, its stability, its resistance against biocidal agents and the minimal infective dose are key to transmission.

“Disinfection of common touch surfaces – doors, handles, railings, furnishings – or objects that contact many people like stethoscopes, medical equipment and PPE would reduce possible secondary routes of infection. The World Health Organisation recommends stringent environmental cleaning and disinfection guidelines. However, adherence is challenging – especially with pandemic situations and asymptomatic carriers.

“We aim to demonstrate that CAP plasma jets can be used to decontaminate surfaces which have been soiled by viruses, including real-world materials like PPE, and develop a scalability and deployment plan for scale-up of this technology for rapid deployment into clinical environments.”

The project is currently in the research phase and has received start-up funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Impact Acceleration Account 2020-2021, which supports early-stage projects that have the capacity to put scientific research outputs into commercial usage.

If you are interested in this area of research for your business, particularly focusing on decontamination of glass, metals and ceramics, and would like to find out more, please get in touch.