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Paper-based sanitizing device zaps bacteria
May 15, 2017, 5:32 pm
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Researchers have invented an inexpensive, effective way to kill bacteria and sanitize surfaces with devices made of paper.

"Paper is an ancient material, but it has unique attributes for new, high-tech applications. For instance, we found that by applying high voltage to stacked sheets of metallized paper, we were able to generate plasma, which is a combination of heat, ultraviolet radiation and ozone that kill microbes," said Aaron Mazzeo, an assistant professor at Rutgers University in the United States.

The research team behind the invention said the motivation for their study was to create personal protective equipment that might contain the spread of infectious diseases, such as the devastating 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. They add that in future, paper-based sanitizers may be suitable for clothing that sterilizes itself, devices that sanitize laboratory equipment and smart bandages to heal wounds, among other uses.

The invention consists of paper with thin layers of aluminum in honeycomb patterns that serve as electrodes to produce the plasma, or ionized gas. The fibrous and porous nature of the paper allows gas to permeate it, fueling the plasma and facilitating cooling.

In experiments, the paper-based sanitizers killed more than 99 percent of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a yeast species) and more than 99.9 percent of E. coli bacteria cells. Most E. coli bacteria are harmless and are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some types of E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, pneumonia and other illnesses.

One of the goals of their ongoing research is to make sensors that resemble how human and animal skin provides protection from external microbes and bacteria, while detecting input (touch, force, temperature and moisture) from environmental surroundings. Such sensors might cover parts of prosthetics, buildings or vehicles. It also might be possible to sterilize vehicles, robots or devices before they enter contamination-prone environments and when they come out to keep them from contaminating people and clean environments.

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