Putting Plasmas on the Map

ME Professor Peter Bruggeman's plasma science research is driving groundbreaking developments in human health and defense. 

Advances in studying cold plasmas — ionized gases at room temperature — have broken new ground in the fight against bacteria and viruses. Professor Bruggeman's group, in collaboration with colleagues in ME, the Medical School, and the College of Veterinary medicine, successfully unraveled the mechanisms through which plasmas can inactivate viruses and bacteria, enabling them to demonstrate plasma-based decontamination of aerosolized viruses in a model ventilation system with potential to help combat virus transmission. In addition, similar plasma-based technology was shown to effectively inactivate MRSA bacteria biofilms that are a key underlying cause of chronic wounds. The study shows the great potential of cold plasma for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections. This work was awarded a Growing Convergent Research grant from the National Science Foundation.

Professor Bruggeman also received funding from the Army Research Office for a research instrumentation grant, "Transmission Electron Microscope to Study Plasma-Driven Solution Electrochemistry." This funding will support pioneering developments in plasma technology, which stand to help develop revolutionary materials that could prove game-changing for the U.S. Army. “Professor Bruggeman is establishing first-of-its-kind in situ TEM plasma electrolysis capability inspired by and advancing the state-of-the-art in situ electrolysis TEM studies,” said Dr. Robert Mantz, program manager, electrochemistry program, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “This new capability will enable in situ investigations of electrochemical reactions near the plasma-liquid interface that have the potential to enable new electrochemistry not possible with traditional electrodes that will allow for synthesis of new materials with unprecedented properties for armor and electronic devices for the Army.” This capability is being established at the CSE Characterization Facility and is in collaboration with Professor Andre Mkhoyan (CEMS) and collaborators participating in the Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) led by Professor Bruggeman that explores new opportunities in plasma electrochemistry.