Researchers from UCLA have found that using plasma could provide a significant breakthrough in the fight against the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a study published in Physics of Fluids, modeling conducted in June 2020 showed strains of COVID-19 on surfaces—such as metal, leather, and plastic—were killed in as little as 30 seconds of treatment with argon-fed, cold atmospheric plasma.

Using an atmospheric pressure plasma jet the researchers built with a 3D printer, the team sprayed surfaces that were treated with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 disease (SARS-CoV-2), including plastic, metal, cardboard, and basketball, football, and baseball leather.

The spray, using plasma fed by argon, killed all the coronaviruses on the 6 surfaces in less than 3 minutes, and most of the virus was destroyed after 30 seconds. Additional testing showed the virus was destroyed in similar times on cotton from face masks.

According to the study authors, the findings show great potential for the use of plasma in stopping the COVID-19 transmission cycle.

“This is only the beginning,” said study author Richard E. Wirz in a press release. “We are very confident and have very high expectations for plasma in future work. In the future, a lot of answers for the scientific community will come from plasma.”

Cold atmospheric plasma is an ionized, near-room-temperature gas that has proven effective in cancer treatments, wound healing, dentistry, and other medical applications, according to the press release.

A similar COVID-19 test with helium-fed plasma was conducted by the study authors, but the helium was not effective, even with treatments up to 5 minutes. The authors believe that this was due to lower rates of reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen when using helium-fed gas compared to argon.

Future technology is heading toward the development of a compact device that could be used widely to treat surfaces for COVID-19 with plasma. Further, the researchers hope the benefits of plasma can be made available to people around the world.

Plasma treatments quickly kill coronavirus on surfaces. AIP Publishing. Published November 10, 2020. Accessed November 11, 2020.