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Using an atmospheric plasma jet to sterilise surfaces and equipment for long duration space missions
Group Members
Joshua Cormack Butler, Max Garcia, Richard Gladdis, Mantas Gudaitis, Priya Shukla, Ji Song
Dr Min Kwan Kim, Dr Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence
When we consider Mars and beyond for future human colonisation, problems arise in keeping astronauts alive and safe from disease without any immediate access to earthbound supplies. Current methods to sterilise equipment and surfaces on-board spacecraft, along with treating astronauts’ wounds is based on the usage of ozone and antibiotics. The machines used for safe treatment equipment are large and cumbersome, and short shelf-life antibiotics need continuous resupply - both factors which limit both payload space and mission length. This makes achieving long duration space missions a more complicated task.

This project aimed to address these issues by developing and testing a portable, cold atmospheric plasma jet. The plasma jet was generated using the high voltage breakdown of air flow across a dielectric barrier and out a nozzle. Computer aided design was used for system housing design and to model the nozzle shape and flow characteristics.

Cold atmospheric plasma was chosen because previous studies have proven it to be an effective steriliser of bacteria that requires significantly less equipment to be produced than by current methods. Additionally, instead of the standard inert gas found in other plasma systems, air was used as the main propellant to remove the need for resupply. Therefore, the device is selfsufficient with air flow produced by an impeller pump developed in-house. The device is battery operated to fulfil the portability requirement to the point of being handheld and was also designed to be modular for interchangeability and implementation of new design iterations.
Exploded view of system.