SEAS researcher proposes ‘plasma brush’ as potential COVID-19 decontamination device

A School of Engineering and Applied Science professor is helping to develop a “plasma brush” that could decontaminate surfaces exposed to COVID-19, according to a University release Friday.

Researchers hope to use plasma – a gas “highly effective” in inactivating microbial pathogens, like COVID-19 – to decontaminate masks, gloves and other medical gear for reuse, the release states. Michael Keidar, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who is developing the equipment alongside Drexel University and University of Michigan researchers, said scanning a surface with the brush even once would likely quickly remove traces of the virus.

Keidar said health care workers can adjust parameters like the brush’s electrical input, voltage and current to meet a patient’s specific health care needs, unlike other medical interventions like pharmaceutical drugs.

“You can develop diagnostics that will monitor the efficacy of the treatment and then can instantaneously change the plasma composition based on that feedback,” Keidar said in the release.

The technology is still in its “earliest stages,” and experts presume but are not entirely certain that plasma decontamination will remove COVID-19 as effectively as other coronaviruses, the release states. The research team is waiting to receive samples of the virus from organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is seeking permission to build and test the brush in a “limited, safe capacity at GW.”

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