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Non-thermal plasma-based inactivation of bacteria in water using a microfluidic reactor

Patinglag, Laila and Melling, Louise M and Whitehead, Kathryn A and Sawtell, David and Iles, Alex and Shaw, Kirsty J (2021) Non-thermal plasma-based inactivation of bacteria in water using a microfluidic reactor. Water Research, 201. ISSN 0043-1354

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Abstract

Failure of conventional water treatment systems may lead to the contamination of water sources, which can cause outbreaks of waterborne healthcare associated infections. Advanced oxidation processing by non-thermal plasma has the potential to treat water without the addition of chemicals. Antibiotic resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli were chosen to investigate the use of non-thermal plasma generated in a microfluidic reactor to disinfect bacteria contaminated water. The microfluidic reactor used in this study utilized a dielectric barrier discharge, in a gas-liquid phase annular flow regime. Microbiological analysis of water inoculated with P. aeruginosa and E. coli was carried out before and after plasma treatment. Using air as the carrier gas, effective disinfection of water was achieved. At the lowest flow rate (35 µL/min), P. aeruginosa and E. coli viability were drastically reduced, with an approximate 8 log maximum decrease in viability following an estimated residence time of 5 s of plasma treatment. Scanning electron microscopy indicated changes in cell morphology due to the plasma treatment. Live/Dead assays revealed that the membranes of the cells had been damaged after plasma treatment. This work demonstrated that non-thermal plasma has the potential to disinfect against microbial contamination in water.

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