In situ generation of plasma-activated aerosols via surface acoustic wave nebulization for portable spray-based surface bacterial inactivation†
The presence of reactive species in plasma-activated water is known to induce oxidative stresses in bacterial species, which can result in their inactivation. By integrating a microfludic chipscale nebulizer driven by surface acoustic waves (SAWs) with a low-temperature atmospheric plasma source, we demonstrate an efficient technique for in situ production and application of plasma-activated aerosols for surface disinfection. Unlike bulk conventional systems wherein the water is separately batch-treated within a container, we show in this work the first demonstration of continuous plasma-treatment of water as it is transported through a paper strip from a reservoir onto the chipscale SAW device. The significantly larger surface area to volume ratio of the water within the paper strip leads to a significant reduction in the duration of the plasma-treatment, while maintaining the concentration of the reactive species. The subsequent nebulization of the plasma-activated water by the SAW then allows the generation of plasma-activated aerosols, which can be directly sprayed onto the contaminated surface, therefore eliminating the storage of the plasma-activated water and hence circumventing the typical limitation in conventional systems wherein the concentration of the reactive species diminishes over time during storage, resulting in a reduction in the efficacy of bacterial inactivation. In particular, we show up to 96% reduction in Escherichia coli colonies through direct spraying with the plasma-activated aerosols. This novel, low-cost, portable and energy-efficient hybrid system necessitates only minimal maintenance as it only requires the supply of tap water and battery power for operation, and is thus suitable for decontamination in home environments.