Air spark-like plasma source for antimicrobial NOx generation

M. J. Pavlovich, T. Ono, C. Galleher, B. Curtis, D. S. Clark, Z. Machala, D. B. Graves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


We demonstrate and analyse the generation of nitrogen oxides and their antimicrobial efficacy using atmospheric air spark-like plasmas. Spark-like discharges in air in a 1 L confined volume are shown to generate NOx at an initial rate of about 1.5 × 1016 NOx molecules/J dissipated in the plasma. Such a discharge operating in this confined volume generates on the order of 6000 ppm NOx in 10 min. Around 90% of the NOx is in the form of NO2 after several minutes of operation in the confined volume, suggesting that NO2 is the dominant antimicrobial component. The strong antimicrobial action of the NOx mixture after several minutes of plasma operation is demonstrated by measuring rates of E. coli disinfection on surfaces and in water exposed to the NOx mixture. Some possible applications of plasma generation of NOx (perhaps followed by dissolution in water) include disinfection of surfaces, skin or wound antisepsis, and sterilization of medical instruments at or near room temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number505202
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 17 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


  • Air plasma
  • Atmospheric-pressure plasma
  • Disinfection
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Spark discharges


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