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Characterization and antimicrobial efficacy against E. coli of a helium/air plasma at atmospheric pressure created in a plastic package

Connolly, J., Valdramidis, V. P., Byrne, E., Karatzas, K.-A., Cullen, P. J., Keener, K. M. and Mosnier, J. P. (2013) Characterization and antimicrobial efficacy against E. coli of a helium/air plasma at atmospheric pressure created in a plastic package. Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 46 (3). 035401. ISSN 1361-6463

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1088/0022-3727/46/3/035401


A plasma source, sustained by the application of a floating high voltage (±15 kV) to parallel-plate electrodes at 50 Hz, has been achieved in a helium/air mixture at atmospheric pressure (P = 105 Pa) contained in a zip-locked plastic package placed in the electrode gap. Some of the physical and antimicrobial properties of this apparatus were established with a view to ascertain its performance as a prototype for the disinfection of fresh produce. The current–voltage (I–V) and charge–voltage (Q–V) characteristics of the system were measured as a function of gap distance d, in the range (3 × 103 ≤ Pd ≤ 1.0 × 104 Pa m). The electrical measurements showed this plasma source to exhibit the characteristic behaviour of a dielectric barrier discharge in the filamentary mode and its properties could be accurately interpreted by the two-capacitance in series model. The power consumed by the discharge and the reduced field strength were found to decrease quadratically from 12.0 W to 4.5 W and linearly from 140 Td to 50 Td, respectively, in the range studied. Emission spectra of the discharge were recorded on a relative intensity scale and the dominant spectral features could be assigned to strong vibrational bands in the 2+ and 1− systems of N2 and ${\rm N}_2^+$ , respectively, with other weak signatures from the NO and OH radicals and the N+, He and O atomic species. Absolute spectral intensities were also recorded and interpreted by comparison with the non-equilibrium synthetic spectra generated by the computer code SPECAIR. At an inter-electrode gap of 0.04 m, this comparison yielded typical values for the electron, vibrational and translational (gas) temperatures of (4980 ± 100) K, (2700 ± 200) K and (300 ± 100) K, respectively and an electron density of 1.0 × 1017 m−3. A Boltzmann plot also provided a value of (3200 ± 200 K) for the vibrational temperature. The antimicrobial efficacy was assessed by studying the resistance of both Escherichia coli K12 its isogenic mutants in soxR, soxS, oxyR, rpoS and dnaK selected to identify possible cellular responses and targets related with 5 min exposure to the active gas in proximity of, but not directly in, the path of the discharge filaments. Both the parent strain and mutants populations were significantly reduced by more than 1.5 log cycles in these conditions, showing the potential of the system. Post-treatment storage studies showed that some transcription regulators and specific genes related to oxidative stress play an important role in the E. coli repair mechanism and that plasma exposure affects specific cell regulator systems.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences > Food Microbial Sciences Research Group
ID Code:36111
Publisher:IOP Publishing

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