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Plasma technology for pollution control

The controlled utilization of plasma energy has attracted the interest of researchers for the last three decades. A versatile system, implementing plasma technology, has now been developed for the treatment of polluted liquid and gaseous materials.
Plasma technology for pollution control
Plasma is a gas of charged particles, generally electrons and various ions. Most of the matter in the universe is in the plasma state (e.g. stars, the interplanetary and interstellar media are all plasmas), and they are a potential source of energy. Basic research has revealed some of the properties of plasma and it is now possible to produce plasma using electromagnetic waves, electrical fields and laser beams. A small number of plasma-based equipment has been developed lately in research projects for use in waste treatment and energy production.

A British company has designed a plasma discharge system, produced by microwave and high voltage that can efficiently kill microorganisms and degrade organic pollutants. This system can be used on both liquid and gas phase materials and can be designed to create plasma of different geometries depending on the material treated. Its efficiency is based on the formation of a plasma layer that generates a mixture of UV radiation, free radicals, ozone and shock waves. The basic principle of the plasma irradiation is to introduce into the treated material, electrons with high energy to create radicals and excited atoms. These active species reacting with other present compounds cause the cleaning process. When suitably controlled, these reactions can transform toxic compounds into non-toxic and removable products, or cause irreversible damage on the cellular mechanisms of the unwanted microorganisms.

The plasma discharge system has been shown to be effective, irrespective of the conductivity of the solution treated, in killing microbes and degrading phenolic pollutants and antifreeze in the tested solutions. The performance and versatility of the system can be proved to be ideal for water and air disinfections and cleaning, waste treatments and sterilization processes.
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