Using plasma — electrically charged gas — Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics director Gregor Morfill is developing ways to kill bacteria and viruses that can cause infections in hospitals. The research began on the International Space Station in 2001.

The research in space paved the way for very practical terrestrial applications. For one of these, easy hand disinfection, funding from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Technology Transfer Program helped to develop a working prototype.

The use of plasma technology can tackle a serious problem. Health experts have seen a dramatic rise in super-strains of bacteria that can survive the strongest antibiotics. Dr. Morfill’s team is focusing on developing a hand disinfection system for hospitals, but cold plasma technology might one day also make it into our homes. Plasma could be used to disinfect toothbrushes and razors instead of UV light.

Find out more at www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/researchnews/zapping_bacteria.html.

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