Underpinned by diverse technological setups, highly chemically reactive ‘cold’ plasmas are increasingly being recognized for their ability to address material fabrication and processing needs across different length scales. These range from highly-selective removal of surface layers, to precision surface functionalization and nanoscale structuring, and deposition of thin films and nanostructures. Plasma jets can be used to propel satellites in space for distant missions as well as for satellite positioning and orbit keeping.
A jet of plasma can also sterilize fruit without damaging its delicate texture or flavour, decontaminate medical equipment in the age of virulent hospital-borne infections, and remove pollutants from wastewater. In medicine, a brief treatment with plasma can accelerate wound healing in diabetics, and kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Because of its unique ability to adapt to changes in the material it contacts, e.g. cancer cells, plasma can deliver ‘personalized treatment’ that changes as cancer cells begin to respond, and from patient to patient.
A quick ‘zap’ with plasma can also transform raw or waste biomass, such as sugarcane bagasse, into value-added products, e.g. liquid precursors for biofuel and material synthesis, and highly-porous solid biochar for water purification and energy applications, and improve the way yeast convert sugars to alcohols in biofuel production. Unlike conventional direct thermal liquefaction and solvent-catalytic liquefaction where heat is transferred from an external source, intense motions and collisions of molecules under plasma-induced electric field efficiently induces a rapid increase in temperature, significantly reducing both processing time and energy consumption. In industrial bioprocesses, such improvements can make or break the economics of a process.
In this talk, I will discuss the unique features and fundamental mechanisms that give plasma its “reactive edge”, and how we can best apply them in real-life applications to get maximum benefit from this exciting state of matter.
Kateryna (Katia) Bazaka is a Senior Lecturer and Modelling and Digital Manufacturing Domain Leader at the Institute for Future Environments, Queensland University of Technology. Katia received her Masters degree in Engineering from National Technical University of Ukraine in 2005, and her PhD awarded cum laude from James Cook University in 2012. She was awarded a Discovery Early Career Research Award (2013-2015) by the Australian Research Council. She joined Queensland University of Technology in 2015 as an Early Career Academic Recruitment and Development Fellow within the Discipline of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics. Her research interests span plasma nanofabrication and reforming of material, extending the useful lifetime of materials operating in challenging environments, and developing processes that could enable circular economy.