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Battery-Powered Plasma Flashlight Makes Short Work of Bacteria

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the healthy-light dept.

Technology 133

cylonlover writes "An international team of scientists has created a handheld, battery powered device that has been shown to effectively rid skin of bacteria in an instant by blasting it with plasma. The plasma flashlight, which shouldn't be confused with a plasma torch that will damage much more than bacteria if used on the skin, could provide a convenient way for paramedics and military personnel to deal with harmful bacteria in the field. The self-contained device is powered by a 12 V battery and doesn't require any external gas feed or handling system. The plume of plasma it generates is between 20-23C (68-73.4F), so it won't damage the skin. It is also fitted with resistors to stop it heating up and becoming too hot to touch. Its creators say it can also be easily manufactured at a cost of less than US$100 per unit."

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No thanks. (3, Insightful)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594125)

I like the bacteria that live on my body.. we have a relationship, once in a while a renegade causes some mayhem but otherwise its a very healthy existance that we've agreed to. Keep your death lights away, I dont need them.

Re:No thanks. (3, Funny)

toygeek (473120) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594141)

"Oh No! Rory's intestines are hanging out, and a little kids are sneezing all over it! Johnson, grab me the torch! No, the OTHER one!"

Re:No thanks. (4, Funny)

Kozz (7764) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594157)

I like the bacteria that live on my body.. we have a relationship, once in a while a renegade causes some mayhem but otherwise its a very healthy existance that we've agreed to. Keep your death lights away, I dont need them.

Considering your profession, I'd think you would want to buy stock.

Re:No thanks. (-1)

Mickey06 (2611575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594225)

I like the bacteria that live on my body.. we have a relationship, once in a while a renegade causes some mayhem but otherwise its a very healthy existance that we've agreed to. Keep your death lights away, I dont need them.

Considering your profession, I'd think you would want to buy stock.

Got a source for that?

Re:No thanks. (4, Informative)

Kozz (7764) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594325)

Oh, Mickey. His nickname says that he is an adult film producer. :P

Re:No thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39596815)

With a cast of one.

Re:No thanks. (5, Insightful)

Doubting Sapien (2448658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594205)

You take for granted the skin that acts as a physical barrier between the microbes that live on your body. For injuries such as severe burns and auto accidents involving road rash victims are not so lucky. This device sounds like an amazingly suitable solution that provides minimal interferance/physical contact. Although in this context, the irony of using a plasma to disinfect such wounds is not lost.

Re:No thanks. (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 2 years ago | (#39598195)

I don't see the irony... Is it that a different type of plasma torch can harm humans?

Re:No thanks. (4, Insightful)

WCLPeter (202497) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594313)

I like the bacteria that lives on my body too... not so much the bacteria in the creek on the side of the road seeping into my open wounds thanks to the asshat who just cut me off.

This kind of thing could be great for people who have allergies to anti-bacterial agents or, as the summary states, "provide a convenient way for paramedics and military personnel to deal with harmful bacteria in the field." If you're going to complain about killing off the good bacteria on your skin then rail about anti-bacterial soap and hand sanitizer, their daily use does far more damage to the good bacteria on your skin than any $100+ device used in an emergency will ever do.

Re:No thanks. (1, Insightful)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594605)

I've never heard of anyone being allergic to an anti-bacterial agent. I've heard of latex allergies (from gloves) and allergies to some *perfumes* that are *added* to dissinfectants, but none regarding dissinfectants themselves. I do quite a bit of first aid stuff, so if you have any links to a source where I could find out if this is true (and specifically which chemicals are an issue), please post them.

Re:No thanks. (2, Informative)

WCLPeter (202497) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594703)

Based on nearly every emergency room doctor asking me if I have an allergy to Penicillin [wikipedia.org] during the medical history part of the interview I figured it was an actual real thing. Still, just in case, I found this Wiki page talking about Penicillin drug reactions [wikipedia.org] that covers allergic reactions and has links to some studies or some such thing.

Honestly I'm not really well versed in the nitty gritty medical terms so I didn't entirely understand everything on the page, but I figure if its important enough for a doctor I've never seen before to ask me about then that means there's likely some people who are allergic to anti-bacterial agents.

Re:No thanks. (2, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594739)

Penicillin is an antibiotic. When people speak of antibacterials they're usually referring to things you apply topically/externally, like iodine, alcohol, and peroxide.

Haptens (4, Informative)

EdwinFreed (1084059) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595409)

Antibacterials like simple alcohols or hydrogen peroxide are small molecules, and small molecules can't generate an immune response directly. However, small molecules can act as haptens: They bind to some protein and the combination generates such a response. Urushiol is the best example of a hapten - it's the "active ingredient" in poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

That said, I've never heard of an allergic reaction to either a simple alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Skin irritation, sure, but not an allergic reaction.

Iodine is another matter. Antibacterial iodine is usually povidone-iodine, and it definitely is possible to have a severe allergic reaction to it. Various sources disagree as to why this happens, but it definitely does.

It's also possible, although rare, to have an allergic reaction to iodine-based contrast dyes. My mother nearly died from an injection some of this stuff, as a matter of fact.

Re:Haptens (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595441)

I've definitely heard of the iodine issues, but is that the iodine itself, or the stuff they add *to* it to make it do other fun stuff (like the dyes, etc)? As for Penicillin, that is not the kind of thing I was talking about (as WCLPeter so graciously explained).

Re:Haptens (1)

EdwinFreed (1084059) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597329)

That's really the question, isn't it? Depending on what you read, you'll find people claiming that it's impossible to have an allergy to iodine itself and others claiming that it is. People have severe allergies to seafood, to iodine-based contrast material, and to povidone-iodine. But others point out that being allergic to one doesn't mean you're allergic to the others - there's some correlation, but it's small. And all of them contain other stuff.

As it happens my mother was also highly allergic to shellfish. She avoided povidone-iodine so I don't know if she had an allergy to it or not. But prior to developing all these sensitivities she had hyperthyroidism, which was treated with a dose of radioactive iodine. And this was back when the treatment was first developed and the doses were larger. She tolerated that fine, if "tolerated" includes developing two different forms of cancer in the next few years. Did all this have something to do with the later sensitivities? Hell if I know.

Re:No thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39596215)

I broke out in a nonirritating rash from Penicillin some fifteen years ago and was deemed allergic. I was told that another dose in the future could put my system in shock and that I should always tell the doctors before any treatment.

Re:No thanks. (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39599131)

You should also be wearing a medic alert bracelet/necklace if those are used in your country. That way your doctor will know even if you are unconcious.

Re:No thanks. (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595525)

I've heard of latex allergies

Ew, must be painful...

(from gloves)

*sighofrelief* fortunately I'm not into fisting (but for those who are: that'll itch even more, at a less accessible place!)

Re:No thanks. (3, Interesting)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595609)

I had a friend who's allergic to latex. Forget the itch. Anaphylactic shock. When I asked him about the common use of latex being inconvenient, he said there were non-latex versions available.

Re:No thanks. (1)

samazon (2601193) | more than 2 years ago | (#39596791)

It's not just "the common use" either - I have a scientist friend who has a latex allergy (daily exposure to lab gloves led to the development a few years after she finished her doctorate) who went into anaphylactic shock on two separate occasions - once (right after she found out) while blowing up balloons at her niece's birthday party, and once after eating food prepared by people wearing latex gloves (there was nothing indicating that the people prepping the food were wearing gloves).

I always think back to Descent II when I hear about plasma gun- excuse me, "flashlight" ... almost as much fun as the phoenix cannon (but not quite). They use the tech to sterilize equipment in labs, why not use it to sterilize people? Could mean the end of antibiotic-resistant bacteria - and lead to noninvasive procedures for certain medical conditions that otherwise require surgical solutions.

Re:No thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39598401)

For some with a latex allergy, the main side affect is simply swelling. It's not entirely comfortable, but perhaps a 5-10% gain in size.

Source: my own allergy to latex.

Posting anon for obvious reason.

Re:No thanks. (1)

sirlark (1676276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39596471)

I'm allergic to sulphur based anti-biotics and topical application of a variety of sulphur compaunds commonly used anti-bacterial products. Anecdotally, my doctor tells me it's not uncommon, mostly causing mild skin irritation, but that my case is particularly severe. Beyond that I can't state a source...

Re:No thanks. (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39599169)

Dissinfectants and Antibiotics are different things.

Re:No thanks. (1)

count_zero451 (1251260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597143)

Actually, about 30% of people develop a contact dermatitis due to neomycin, one of the three antimicrobials in triple antibiotic ointment.

Re:No thanks. (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39598709)

you're going to complain about killing off the good bacteria on your skin then rail about anti-bacterial soap and hand sanitizer, their daily use does far more damage to the good bacteria on your skin than any $100+ device used in an emergency will ever do

Personally, i don't use either, as they are bad.

However, i do agree, in cases where your skin is open, you do want to stop bad bacteria from entering and its an acceptable risk to burn off some good in order to stop the bad. ( be it a simple paper cut, sever cat scratch or being run over by a truck and your arm is danging..)

Re:No thanks. (1)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594397)

this is meant for just such an occasion when the balance is unbalanced..

Is it as effective as ozone? (1)

fragMasterFlash (989911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594143)

With the prevalence of MSRA I've wondered why portable/handheld ozone generators have not become prevalent for hospital/clinical use. If this system is as effective it would eliminate the need for liquid suspension of ozone to prevent inhalation hazards. In fact, I wonder how long before other industries requiring sanitation abandon ozone systems in favor this plasma light system.

Is it really the plasma, not the ozone or UV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594175)

I won't penetrate the paywall, so I didn't RTFA. From the looks of the photo, there's a lot of UV, and also a lot of ozone.

Re:Is it really the plasma, not the ozone or UV? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594241)

There's a paywall? Didn't notice, but here you go:

Battery-powered plasma flashlight makes short work of bacteria

By Darren Quick

00:51 April 5, 2012

An international team of scientists has created a handheld, battery powered device that has been shown to effectively rid skin of bacteria in an instant by blasting it with plasma. The plasma flashlight, which shouldn’t be confused with a plasma torch that will damage much more than bacteria if used on the skin, could provide a convenient way for paramedics and military personnel to deal with harmful bacteria in the field.

The self-contained device is powered by a 12 V battery and doesn’t require any external gas feed or handling system. The plume of plasma it generates is between 20-23C (68-73.4F), so it won’t damage the skin. It is also fitted with resistors to stop it heating up and becoming too hot to touch. Its creators say it can also be easily manufactured at a cost of less than US$100 per unit.

In an experiment carried out by the scientists, the plasma flashlight effectively inactivated thick biofilms of Enterococcus faecalis, a bacterium that often infects the root canals in dental treatments and is highly antibiotic- and heat-resistant. Created by incubating the bacteria for seven days, the biofilms consisted of 17 different layers of bacteria. After treating each biofilm with the plasma flashlight for five minutes, the plasma was found to penetrate deep into the very bottom layer and inactivate the bacteria.

“In this study we chose an extreme example to demonstrate that the plasma flashlight can be very effective even at room temperature,” said co-author of the study, Professor Kostya (Ken) Ostrikov, from the Plasma Nanoscience Centre Australia, CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering. “For individual bacteria, the inactivation time could be just tens of seconds.”

While plasma has previously been shown to effectively kill bacteria and viruses on the surface of the skin and water, the exact mechanism behind this is still not understood. Ultraviolet radiation has been theorized as a reason, but the jet created by the plasma flashlight is low in UV radiation, which adds to the safety of using the device on a person’s skin. The reactions between the plasma and the surrounding air has also been suggested as another possibility.

The international team behind the plasma flashlight consists of scientists from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, The University of Sydney and the City University of Hong Kong. Their work is detailed in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

Source: Institute of Physics

Re:Is it as effective as ozone? (4, Informative)

virb67 (1771270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594247)

MRSA is a direct product of our total war on all bacteria. Most people who become infected with MRSA were exposed to it in a hospital. Hospitals have basically become ultra-efficient incubators for MRSA.

MRSA (2)

nosh (213252) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595797)

MRSA is no the product of a total war on bacteria, but the product of a careless war.

Our use of antibiotics is like sending a single policeman with a single gun to every incident reporting and not caring if they return. In most cases it will be enough, but in the long run there will be many criminals with police guns in their hands
(and even if they do not need the new guns, they still get fresh ammo all the time).

Hospitals are then favelas handled like that, i.e. sending one or two policemen with automatic guns into areas where everyone already has guns, perhaps sending them in until they return and bring back all the weapons in one house, but not counting all the weapons you lost, not looking if anyone leaves the house with some of your weapons and hides somewhere else, not caring for people walking around with your weapons in the streets and so on.

The big weapons against MRSA are basic hygiene and checking your employes. Just regularily testing your employees and getting rid of any MRSA they carry around helps a lot. Teaching people to wash your hands between touching patients instead of between touching sterile items is also said to help a lot.

Re:Is it as effective as ozone? (1)

count_zero451 (1251260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597223)

This used to be the case, but not anymore. Hospitals were (and still are) a breeding ground for resistant bacteria, MRSA included. These MRSA bacteria caused invasive infections (like pneumonia and bacteremia) that were very hard to treat and lead to many patient deaths. CA-MRSA (community-acquired MRSA) is a relatively new development over the last 10 years or so, and as the name implies, are typically contracted in the community. These bacteria are thankfully less invasive, but tend to cause a lot of skin infections and abscesses. In the ER where I work, I see 3-4 patients every shift with these infections, most who have had no recent exposure to a hospital.

Re:Is it as effective as ozone? (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597279)

I don't think bacteria are not going to become resistant to these plasma "flashlights" any more than they are going to become resistant to alcohol, lysol, or autoclaves. They wouldn't be bacteria any more.

More cold plasma experiments. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594167)

For those with interest in the subject :
http://ceee.hust.edu.cn/plasma/about.htm#jet

Ow! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594169)

#1 - Ow! My sperm!
#2 - Hmm. Didn't hurt that time. ...

Real science, please (5, Informative)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594179)

"It is also fitted with resistors to stop it heating up and becoming too hot to touch."

Um. What? Whoever wrote this clearly has no electronics knowledge. This is Slashdot. We have real engineers and scientists around here. Could we have real science reporting, please? Not only is that sentence moronic, the entire article fails to explain how this device operates, even in the most basic terms. It's shaped like a flashlight, but that seems to be where the similarity ends. It is not a light source whatsoever. From the actual scientific publication, it appears that this is a high voltage pulse generator that produces a discharge between the device and the patient. A series of 100ns pulses at 20KHz repetition rate ionizes the air between the device and the patient, thus producing the ions that kill the bacteria. The peak current is 6mA, but the average current (and thus average power) is very low so heating is minimal. This is a relatively low-tech device electronically, and could easily be replicated by many hobbyists.

Re:Real science, please (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594431)

"It is also fitted with resistors and shit to stop it heating up and becoming too hot to touch."

That better?

Re:Real science, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39595093)

No, because resistors generate heat when current flows through them.

Re:Real science, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39596015)

"It is also fitted with resistors and other shit to stop it heating up and becoming too hot to touch."

How about now?

Re:Real science, please (3, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#39596349)

No, because resistors generate heat when current flows through them.

Yes, but that doesn't necessarily mean the total heat dissipated increases. If you have a constant voltage supply (typical), adding a resistor in *series* with the load *reduces* the total power dissipated. Yes, the resistor generates heat, but that is more than offset by a reduction in the heat generated by the load.

If a resistor in series with the load reduces the current by 1/2, the power dissipated by the load is reduced to 1/4 what it would be without the load.

Constant voltage is the most common case, as it is supplied by outlets and batteries, but some power supplies provide constant current, in which case adding a resistor in series would not alter the load power dissipation, and (as you are asserting) the heat generated by the resistor would add to the net heat dissipation.

Supposing you're driving an LED (disclaimer, I am not an LED lighting engineer), you'd want to keep it in the correct current range, so you'd use a constant current power supply. If you put a second identical LED in series with the first, you'd double the load resistance [note 1], but the power supply's voltage would adjust so the current remains the same. The Captain Obvious result is that if you drive 2 serially connected LEDs off your constant current supply instead of 1, the power dissipated doubles. The somewhat less obvious result is that if you're using a constant voltage supply the total power dissipated drops, so the the power dissipated by each of the two LEDs is less than one half what a single LED would.

note 1: LEDs aren't linear in their response like a plain resistor, so this wouldn't necessarily be true if we were talking about a constant voltage supply like a battery.

Re:Real science, please (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594509)

Shaped like a flashlight? Really? It looks like a crayon.

The article is http://iopscience.iop.org/0022-3727/45/16/165205/pdf/0022-3727_45_16_165205.pdf (may need registering, but it's free to download for a month)

The summary is semi-correct, but phrased terribly. The resistors provide enough ballast to limit the output power to 60mW. If you short the device the combined 100MegOhm is only going to dissipate a Watt of power. It's not so much to stop the device being warm to the touch, it's to stop the device from blowing up and/or burning your patient.

If they weren't there then you're essentially trying to dump 10kV into a human body which is roughly 10kOhm to be conservative. The resistance of air is about a megaOhm per centimetre, but presumably if it's arcing due to the plasma it'll have negligible resistance after ionisation. What would probably happen is the DC converter would blow up, but you'd get a pretty nasty shock.

Similarly as the human body has a maximum resistance of a few hundred kOhm, the plasma current is dominated by the two ballast resistors. Incidentally, it looks like the patient will either need to be wired up or will have to disinfect themselves because the thing works by pulling your body to ground with respect to the electrodes.

Re:Real science, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594557)

Um... It's not shaped like a flashlight, either...

Re:Real science, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594975)

THANK YOU!

Re:Real science, please (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595547)

It is also fitted with resistors to stop it heating up and becoming too hot to touch.

Maybe these are thermovariable resistors, that are used to detect when temperature is rising too high, and temporarily reduce power if/when it happens?

Re:Real science, please (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39596757)

I believe the word you were looking for is "thermistor".

Re:Real science, please (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595677)

This is why I come to slashdot, and this alone.

Re:Real science, please (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#39596607)

Yes, the authors have managed to write a sentence that is incomprehensible to people who understand electronics and people who don't, but for different reasons.

Let me plays devil's advocate, though, and construe a speculative interpretation that might make sense.

This thing generates plasma -- from what? Probably the air. So my guess is that it applies a pulse of high voltage to ionize the air, producing a plasma. Now suppose the plasma is too hot, what would adding a resistor in series do?

Well, a resistance value could be chosen so high that if you *shorted* the air gap, the resistor itself would dissipate negligible power, yet that value could still be negligible compared to the resistance of an un-ionized [note 1] air gap. This would greatly limit the power dissipated by the arc (especially given that the arc's resistance *decreases* as the current flowing through it increases), while posing no barrier to the formation of the arc in the first place.

note 1: air can be ionized or not, but I have no idea whether it can unionize.

Re:Real science, please (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597041)

note 1: air can be ionized or not, but I have no idea whether it can unionize.

I fully support fair wages for air.

Re:Real science, please (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597277)

Yes! I knew someone would write a comment on that sentence. IANAEE, but I know resistors release heat when a current passes through them.

Not the news I was looking for :( (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594183)

Anybody else read that as fleshlight?

Re:Not the news I was looking for :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39595119)

Anti-bacterial fleshlight? Now that sounds like a pretty good idea, if you're the kind of weirdo that can't manage better than a fleshlight. The typical Slashdot reader, in other words. I'll be right back, I have an idea to patent...

Re:Not the news I was looking for :( (2)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#39596391)

Anybody else read that as fleshlight?

Yes. And I got far more excited than I should admit without ticking "Post Anonymously".

Plasma flashlight, sonic screwdriver... (1)

Narrowband (2602733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594195)

Quick, where's the laser wrench? And the fusion shovel?

Re:Plasma flashlight, sonic screwdriver... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594245)

That's laser *wench*. Believe me, when her quanta bounce back and forth all in unison, ,my beam gets perfectly collimated.

Re:Plasma flashlight, sonic screwdriver... (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594261)

I don't know, but this sounds more like a lightsaber. Just crank up the power a little bit.

Laser flashlights in Larry Niven's Ringworld (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594343)

I don't know, but this sounds more like a lightsaber. Just crank up the power a little bit.

Actually that is precise how the laser flashlights in Larry Niven's Ringworld (1970) operated. On a low setting they were pretty much flashlights. They were designed to be covert, non-obvious weapons. However if the power was dialed up you had a powerful energy weapon for slicing things at a distance.

Re:Plasma flashlight, sonic screwdriver... (1)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594527)

Had to sell them to get a bacon stretcher and new muffler bearings.

This blasphemer needs drawn and qurtered! (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595375)

In my Universe[1], I would let you slide on the muffler bearings, BUT the bacon stretcher is just taking things too far!
Repent your evil ways and use a bacon condenser instead.
Just think, put in 10 kilos of bacon, and get a handful of bullion cube sized bacon bites!
Density FTW! (just ask my bathroom scales!) ;-)

All hyperbolic humour/sarcasm aside......a 'bacon stretcher'?
That's a new one for me, first time I've encountered that one...Thanks! :-)

[1] I am the Emperor of my fantasy Universe, so I get to make the rules!

Re:Plasma flashlight, sonic screwdriver... (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594691)

It's all about the hyperspanners.

Damn Aussies - watch out for patent claims (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594315)

It is the CSIRO again!

I'll take two! (3, Interesting)

JudasPreist (2530344) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594335)

Wonder if it works on solid surfaces as well. Just imagine, use it on your face a few times a day and eliminate acne. Of course you'll probably get really tan really quickly, but yeah. No more Yellowish Brown splotches as you leave after donating blood, they can sanitize you with a quick brush of a plasma flashlight. If places replaced the costly paper towel dispensers and soap dispensers with one of these, (a heavy duty plugin version) you could sanitize the hands of a hundred people in like a minute! No more soap and wasteful paper towels that are almost never recycled after use as a hand towel. No more costly hot air hand dryers that take hundreds of watts to run.

Re:I'll take two! (2)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594881)

you could sanitize the hands of a hundred people in like a minute!

If they make a BFG [platformnation.com] version of it you could sanitize the entire bodies of a whole roomful of people in like seconds! ;)

Re:I'll take two! (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597073)

That would be great. Now I can leave the bathroom with sanitized poop on my hands.

Re:I'll take two! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39598457)

We need a +1 Vile tag...

Re:I'll take two! (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39598485)

That would be your left hand, right?

Re:I'll take two! (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39598675)

Toilet paper dispensers are usually on the left, and somehow I've just never managed to try and work from the other side. I fear your strange fascination with my wiping habits.

Re:I'll take two! (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39599313)

Its not the wiping that has us concerned its the itching and scratching.

But wait, it's probably patented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594367)

.... I cannot wait for the anti-patent crowd to say how they are being prevented from being able to kill bacteria on this skin because of this and that this needs to be open sourced.

Something Fishy (3, Insightful)

davetv (897037) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594379)

Something fishy about this. "Fitted with resistors to stop it heating up". Is that a joke? As I remember, resistors are about turning unwanted current flow into heat. Also - from the article, the way I interpret it, it seems it takes tens of seconds of exposure to kill the bacteria.

Re:Something Fishy (4, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594741)

The resistors limit current. And yes, they will heat up (somewhat). But better the resistors than your skin. I'm sure they are located within the device so as not to contact your skin.

Fry's Electronics (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594383)

They sell this hand held battery powered bacteria killing U.V. light at Fry's electronics. As shown on T.V.!!!

Ironic, my captcha is 'emitted'.

DIY version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594401)

Based on what little information is in the article it just looks like a "corona discharge" generator. Basically just a high voltage source leaking small amounts of charge into the surrounding air, and ionizing it in the process. You can make one from the flyback transformer in an CRT tv/monitor, so the total cost for the homemade variant would be the cost of looking for a junk tv on the roadside.

Still, the device would also be good for experiments such as moving small objects without touching them, and accumulating a HV potential on leyden jar capacitors, etc.

Re:DIY version (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 2 years ago | (#39596085)

exactly what I was thinking - basically a Tesla oil - high frequency, high voltage. Didn't know that when I was a kid messing with high voltage I was also killing bacteria on my skin....

This tool was invented once already. (2)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594429)

Old Dominion University did this nearly a decade ago and filed a patent for it. I see no reference to them in the article.

http://www.odu.edu/ao/research/ip/PlasmaPencil.pdf [odu.edu]

Re:This tool was invented once already. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594823)

The pencil that you cite requires a gas source so they aren't using identical techniques to generate the plasma: http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050919/full/news050919-13.html

good idea! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594461)

I can see these replacing all those tedious hand-dryers in public toilets now - blast your bacteria and virii away in seconds!

$100USD (1)

VonSkippy (892467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594647)

Which means with enough middlemen, the standard good old boy networking, and the proper paperwork, the US Military will be paying somewhere between $7000-$9000USD each in large quantities.

Yeah for the 1%er's!

Does it work against .... (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594731)

... gizmag.com popups that block the !@%$#*& article?

Walls (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594763)

I wonder if it would work on walls? We have some persistent fungus in parts of our house. Bleach the bastard and in a few weeks it's back.

Re:Walls (0)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595217)

Hey, when shopping for a house in Santa Fe, I paid a few hundred bucks to a very professional Assessment for Microbial Contamination from Dan Stih of www.HealthyLivingSpaces.com. It included counts of a variety of classes/species of fungus hanging out outside and contrasted that with the air quality in various parts of the house. It then honed in on physical penetration tests of surfaces like wood, tile grout and drywall, with an detailed recommendation for a remediation protocol.
I was very satisfied with the results and am willing to recommend him further. The telephone number is (505)992-9904.

Re:Walls (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595487)

I forgot to add:
don't overlook any HVAC duct-work as a source!

Re:Walls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39598263)

Bleach works better than plasma, but it's too harsh for skin. As someone said, you're not reaching the source.

Which is better? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594917)

I wonder if the bacteria that live on my skin stop more germs than my immune system. I suspect so since they have the numbers. It is sad that I can't find a bar of soap that does not have anti bacterial stuff in it. Germophobes have come down with some nasty fungal infections after ridding their skin of bacteria. It sounds useful for treating that missing patch of skin that time I left it on the goose poop decorated bike path. That one started to show sign of blood poisoning.

Re:Which is better? (2)

rts008 (812749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595563)

I don't recall specifically any info on skin bacteria, but many species of bacteria use chemical warfare to combat rivals and competition.

In addition, mostly they seem to rely on the 'crowding out the competition' tactic that weeds use on grass and gardens...'consume all the resources to deny your enemy a foothold'.
It's a proven and valid strategy for most species of all orders(not just bacteria), historically.

Trivial/arcane fact:
40%-65% of the volume of 'the average human turd' is dead bacterial corpses from the mostly natural lifespan/reproduction cycle.
The bulk of that is e. coli.

It is suggested/discovered that these enteric bacteria help us produce/process substances vital to our survival, ie:vitamins, enzymes, enables digestion of certain foods, etc.

Plasma torches, how do they work?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39595169)

While plasma has previously been shown to effectively kill bacteria and viruses on the surface of the skin and water, the exact mechanism behind this is still not understood

Hmmm thanks, but I'd prefer to sit tight until we know exactly how it does this. I know it has probably gone through rigourous testing etc., but if we've no idea how it works we've no idea how it could be causing other damage. We used to think throwing antibiotics at every possible problem was a great idea until we discovered transmissible resistance genes.

Re:Plasma torches, how do they work?! (4, Interesting)

michelcolman (1208008) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595679)

Yes, and it worries me to read "we don't know how it kills the bacteria" and "it's only 20-23C, so it won't damage the skin" in the same article. I'm not one of those "OMG it might cause cancer" types, but this seems to be one example where such fears could be warranted. After all, you could say "it's only 20-23C so it won't kill any bacteria" but that's obviously not true. Could we maybe first figure out what it does exactly before declaring it safe and letting paramedics use it on a daily basis?

Re:Plasma torches, how do they work?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39597839)

Yes, and it worries me to read "we don't know how it kills the bacteria" and "it's only 20-23C, so it won't damage the skin" in the same article. I'm not one of those "OMG it might cause cancer" types, but this seems to be one example where such fears could be warranted. After all, you could say "it's only 20-23C so it won't kill any bacteria" but that's obviously not true. Could we maybe first figure out what it does exactly before declaring it safe and letting paramedics use it on a daily basis?

We use all sorts of things in medicine that we don't entirely understand how they work. For example, ECT. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroconvulsive_therapy

One of the leading researchers said that ECT is sort of like kicking your TV (when you don't have cable). You may not understand exactly why it works. But you know, sometimes when you kick your TV, the reception gets better.

Re:Plasma torches, how do they work?! (1)

docilespelunker (1883198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39598087)

Ozone and free radicals – very bad for bacteria. Further, this is not plasma, this is corona. Plasma is fully ionised gas. Corona on the other hand is an area or volume of week discharge through a gas – which is what this is. So this is a pen shaped thing with a week high frequency ~20kV discharge, almost certainly capacitivly coupled to the output to limit current. If it isn’t capacitivly coupled or otherwise current limited – hello RF burns!

Flesh Light (1)

Cyfun (667564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595207)

So this is a flashlight whose sole purpose is to shine on your flesh. I'm pretty sure there's already a product called a Fleshlight.

Re:Flesh Light (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597463)

Hmmm, I don't think that word means what you think it means...

How many plasma flashlights for a plasma TV (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595277)

and can it do 3D? :p

A hundred bucks? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39595305)

I could build several UVC-LED flashlights for that much and get the same effects with better lifetime, durability, and portability.

Kill Mites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39595419)

So, for scabies and similar sufferers, will this device kill mites?

And I, for one, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39595651)

welcome our future plasma-resistant bacterial overlords!

I wonder how the bacteria feel about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39595763)

The bacteria probably aren't too excited about the news of the humans creating yet another new weapon of mass genocide and perhaps they are ramping up some new strain so they can attack humans first.

Slashdot always has such a human bias to it, even with the new ownership.

Light-saber (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 2 years ago | (#39596593)

When it grows up, it will be a light saber.

The Fleshlight!!! (1)

doston (2372830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39597639)

Should be called the Fleshlight! Yeah, since it's a flashlight to be used on the flesh, right? ;-) I wonder if it feels real good....

Re:The Fleshlight!!! (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39598019)

haha you beat me (beat meat?) to it. they should combine this bacteria killing tech with the fleshlight so these football players can share in safety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a60c2k6JP94 [youtube.com]

Soap (1)

docilespelunker (1883198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39598157)

For when soap is just too simple...
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