Cold atmospheric plasmas applied to biology – From physics to biology, via chemistry

by Fabio Avino (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Swiss Plasma Center (SPC))

Aula Conversi (Dipartimento di Fisica - Ed. G.Marconi)

Aula Conversi

Dipartimento di Fisica - Ed. G.Marconi


In the last decade, Cold Atmospheric Plasmas (CAPs) have attracted the interest of the international
scientific community for their multitude of potential applications in sterilization, medical, and
agricultural fields [1,2,3]. The main feature of CAPs is the presence of an energetic population of
electrons, along with ions and gas molecules at ambient temperature. This gives access to a rich
chemistry of reactive species while maintaining local temperature low and thus applicable to biological
substrates. Furthermore, CAPs constitute an environmentally friendly alternative to chemicals, besides
being simple, cost-effective, and industrially scalable [4].
In the first part of this seminar, a brief introduction to CAPs and their previously listed advantages will
be provided. The CAP source that is mostly used at the Bioplasma laboratory of the Swiss Plasma Center
(SPC) will be presented: a Surface Dielectric Barrier Discharge (SDBD). The main research topics
addressed in our laboratory will then be discussed, joining plasma physics, chemistry, and biology: 1)
Direct treatments of bacteria (Escherichia coli), including the associated spatial and temporal
characterization of reactive species produced near the plasma through Fourier Transform Infrared
Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Laser-Induced Fluorescence (LIF) [5]; 2) Indirect treatments of E. coli through
Plasma Activated Water (PAW), with microfluidic fluorescence experiments [6]; 3) Single-Cell
Impedance Flow Cytometry (IFC), to extract information on the dielectric properties of bacteria after
plasma treatment; 4) Decontamination of liquid wastesfeaturing pathogenic microorganisms, as a partial
alternative to autoclaves; 5) Microdochium nivale sterilization on wheat seeds.

1. Reema, et al. Front. Phys. 2022, 0:942952.
2. M. M. Cherif, et al. Appl. Sci. 2023, 13, 2381.
3. P. F. Ambrico, et al. Scientific Reports 2020, 10, 3673.
4. F. Avino, et al. J Phys D Appl Phys 2023, 56, 345201.
5. L. Ibba, et al. Plasma Chem Plasma Process 2024, 44, 785–805.
6. R. Agus, et al. Chemical Engineering Journal 2024, 486, 149915.

Organized by

Andrea Giansanti