Non-Thermal Plasma Inactivation of Airborne Pathogens Relevant to Agriculture 

Non-Thermal Plasma Inactivation of Airborne Pathogens Relevant to Agriculture

Transmitted diseases are one of the greatest threats to modern agriculture and food security. They reduce crop yields, diminish animal productivity and increase animal loss from increased animal mortality and culls during disease outbreaks. It is believed that the prevention of infectious diseases relating to agricultural activities will become increasingly important to insure future food production. While much research has focused on waterborne pathogen inactivation, the same does not hold true for airborne pathogens, particularly for conditions where the objective is a technology capable of airstream disinfection.

Non-thermal plasmas (NTP) are electrical discharges that can inactivate viruses and bacteria in air, water, and on surfaces. The technology has been commonly used in food processing and personal sanitization, while fewer studies have been done on the airborne virus inactivation by NTP.

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For the purpose of developing a novel airstream disinfection technology for agricultural activities and contributing to the scientific understanding of spontaneous inactivation of airborne pathogens in a plasma environment, a dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) non-thermal plasma reactor was designed and constructed in this study and its airstream disinfection efficiency is being examined. Two photos of the reactor we constructed are shown below:


In addition, Professor Clack’s model indicates that in a common ESP design, the generated plasma extends about 5R from the electrode surface, and the electrohydrodynamic (EHD)-induced vena contracta can focus flow near electrodes, which may lead to about two times increase in degree of reaction completion for simple one-step reactions. In the future, we may apply this ESP design to our NTP reactor and use the EHD effects to enhance the airborne virus inactivation efficiency.

!!University of Michigan has applied for U.S. and international patents for EHD-enhanced NTPs for air disinfection!!


Pilot-scale Non-thermal Plasma Reactor Testing on Barton Farm, MI.

  • people field testing non-thermal plasma