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Decontamination

This research focus area deals with development and optimization of plasma-based processes for decontamination and hygiene for environmental protection, for occupational and personal Health & Safety, in food hygiene and in medical facilities. In this regard, plasma technology is used to decompose biological and chemical contaminants of surfaces gases and fluids.

Microorganisms can be specifically deactivated and even eliminated without damaging the carrier. Consequently, plasmas are particularly suitable for sterilization of thermal-labile instruments, plastic items, textiles, and even skin. For this reason, part of the research is devoted to plasma-based decontamination of sensitive materials and products from the medical sector. Made-to-measure plasma-based treatments improve hygiene and device surfaces (e.g. endoscopes), air (e.g. in an operating room) or even liquids (e.g. hospital wastewater). Moreover, use of physical plasma to remove critical contaminants in fresh foods is being investigated. Chemical decontamination through plasma is employed for example in elimination of toxic (e.g. nitric oxides) or undesired pollutants (including odors) in airflows or exhaust gas flows, which can only be decomposed with difficulty or not decomposed at all with conventional systems. In the area of wastewater treatment, plasmas can contribute to destruction of stubborn compounds, such as pharmaceutical residues (e.g. diclofenac) or radiocontrast agents (diatrizoate). 


Application fields

Plasmagenerator.jpg
Plasma generator for indoor air purification and commercial kitchens

The research topic "Clean Air" is dedicated to the development of new plasma-based processes for the degradation of pollutants in air. In combination with other processes, e.g. filter systems, these aim overall to break down substances that are difficult or impossible to remove using other methods. Due to the high reactivity of plasma processes, even substances that are difficult to degrade can be degraded (in most cases oxidized). In addition, plasmas have proven to be extremely efficient for the elimination or inactivation of airborne pathogens and thus have great potential for improving indoor air hygiene. In this context, our research activities aim at a deeper understanding of the elementary processes and mechanisms of non-thermal plasma chemistry as a basis for the optimization of reactors and processes for exhaust air, recirculated air and waste gas treatment.

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Pulsed corona plasma in water for pollutant and germ degradation.

The research topic "Clean Water" focuses on the microbial and chemical decontamination of liquid media. In this context, methods for bringing a plasma into or onto the liquid usually differ significantly from those for treating gases. In addition, further possibilities for efficient decontamination arise from the use of pulsed electric fields, which are technologically related to plasma processes. On this basis, advanced decontamination methods are being specifically developed. Discharges generated in and on water can be used very effectively for problematic contaminations, e.g. in drinking water treatment. Especially substances that are difficult to biodegrade, such as pharmaceuticals or pesticides, require new, efficient methods. Plasma processes are an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative that not only inactivates microorganisms without the use of chemicals such as chlorine, but also breaks down chemical pollutants.

Plasmaeinschluss.jpg
Plasma inclusion of a chicken egg (not visible) for surface disinfection

In the research topic "Clean Food", the goals are to reduce food losses and increase food safety. Priority is given to investigating how plasma processes can be advantageously integrated into existing processing sequences. Examples are an immersion process to avoid storage losses in 'controlled atmosphere', i.e. CA-storage, fruit marketing or washing processes in 'fresh-cut' production. Further activities are the development of 'cleaning in place' and 'sterilization in place' (CIP/SIP) processes in the packaging sector. The idea is to use plasma to efficiently generate antimicrobial species, especially radicals and metastables. These are degraded within process-typical times, so that possible effects on the product can be minimized and a risk to the consumer can be excluded. In order to advance research activities with regard to the development, production and marketing of plasma-based systems for the efficient, gentle decontamination of foodstuffs, production materials and their packaging, INP is involved as an active partner in various national and international projects.

endoskopkanal.jpg
Plasma along an endoscope channel for disinfection and treatment

The research topic "Clean Healthcare" focuses on plasma-based disinfection and possible sterilization of sensitive materials and medical devices. To this end, plasma sources are being developed specifically for medical requirements, such as in the field of endoscopy. On the other hand, the spread of pathogenic microorganisms can be reduced by plasma treatment in general, also in the care sector, but also in the home and public areas. In addition, plasma-mediated inactivation of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in gases and liquids is also being investigated, which can be used to increase indoor air hygiene or even for wastewater treatment. The inactivation of zoonotic microorganisms and viruses represents a significant contribution to the "One Health" approach and thus to maintaining human and animal health. Thus, the topic also has a strong and direct relationship to the topics of "Clean Air" and "Clean Water". The current focus is on measures to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic.


Project topics

Application-oriented research in the research area of decontamination is supported through various projects, in which either physical fundamentals are the center of focus, or the feasibility of different applications is investigated.

Project Topics

Duration from 1.3.2021 - 30.11.2022, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the funding code (FKZ) 03WIR2809A.

The use of agricultural chemicals (herbicides, pesticides) is a prerequisite for the high-yield cultivation of crops and thus a comprehensive supply of affordable food. However, the associated burdens on the environment and possible risks for consumers are viewed with concern. Within the framework of the BMBF initiative "Change through Innovation in the Region", the project "Physics for Food" has therefore set itself the task of investigating and establishing possible alternatives to chemical processes using physical methods. In various lead projects, possibilities for seed treatment, for the promotion of plant growth and health, as well as in the processing of crops and fodder plants are being investigated. (More information on the overall project and the individual lead projects can be found here: https://physicsforfood.org/)

The "Physics for Environment" lead project directly addresses the goals of the overall project to create the basis for a more residue-free and environmentally friendly agriculture and agricultural production. The water required for many work steps and production processes should either be discharged into the environment with virtually no residues or be returned to the water cycle. Effective disinfection is also crucial for successful water recovery. Together with INP, Harbauer GmbH, Berlin, and Power Recycling Energyservice GmbH, Neubrandenburg, are building a test facility at the Cosun Beet Company & Co KG site in Anklam to validate various physical water treatment methods. In addition to these funded partners, other end users (ABiTEP GmbH, Berlin, Braumanufaktur Ludwigslust, WF Milch GmbH, Freyenstein) are participating by granting access to their production facilities and actively supporting investigations into their specific fields of application. The experience gained will be used to explicitly derive technologies that respond to needs in agricultural operations, e.g. the treatment of spraying agent residues or field runoff water.

Project Manager:

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kolb
Phone: +49 3834 - 554 3950
juergen.kolbinp-greifswaldde

Duration from 1.3.2021 - 31.8.2024, funded by the European Commission through the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 contract number 955431.

In this Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network, innovative and sustainable technological approaches in food processing are investigated for their scalability in collaboration with industry with 13 partners from 8 countries. Young scientists are given the opportunity to carry out their doctoral theses within an international consortium with guest stays at the partners.

Project Manager:

Dr. Jörg Ehlbeck
Phone: +49 3834 – 554 458
ehlbeckinp-greifswaldde

Duration from 1.1.2021 - 31.12.2023, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the funding code (FKZ) 03COV05A.

In the current pandemic, it was possible to trace how, on the one hand, the demand for medical supplies, such as respiratory masks, has risen sharply, but on the other hand, at times, due to the collapse of the global supply chains, could not be met. In such a situation, the reprocessing and reuse of existing products is of enormous importance. It can bridge the period until new supply chains are established as well as absolute demand peaks. Ideally, this requires a technology that is largely independent of the supply chains affected by the pandemic.

Disinfecting and sterilizing plasma processes often require only access to a power supply to operate, making them ideal for use in crisis situations. The low process temperatures allow treatment of thermolabile products and scaling of the systems to the expected large throughput volumes is already being investigated in the project.

Project Manager:

Dr. Jörg Ehlbeck
Phone: +49 3834 – 554 458
ehlbeckinp-greifswaldde

Duration from 1.1.2021 - 31.12.2023, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the funding code (FKZ) 03WIR2808D.

In the funding area WIR! - Change through Innovation in the Region, the project WIR! Physics for Food - Transfer, Procedures & Permissions (TPP) project, the development and operation of demonstrators based on cold plasma processes for use in agricultural production is being carried out. The experimental plants are used for the production of plasma-treated water for use in crop protection as well as plasma-generated process gases for seed treatment.

Project Manager:

Dr. Jörg Ehlbeck
Phone: +49 3834 – 554 458
ehlbeckinp-greifswaldde

Duration 11/15/2020 - 11/14/2023, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) under grant number (FKZ) 281C104G18.

Zoonoses are a threat to the consumption of many foods. For meat products, Salmonella and Campylobacter are the most important pathogens in Germany and the EU. The overall project "KontRed" under the leadership of Freie Universität Berlin, together with 15 other partners from research and industry, is therefore dedicated to the development and establishment of technologies and processes to reduce the occurrence and transmission of zoonotic microorganisms and to increase food safety at a key point in the poultry and pig food chain: the slaughter and processing process. The overall objective is to optimize and guide existing processes and procedures and, in addition, to implement new technical procedures from a hygienic point of view in order to reduce the burden of zoonotic pathogens at the end of the slaughter line. The safety of poultry meat and pork products will thus be improved and consumer confidence sustainably strengthened. The specific aim of the sub-project of the Institute of Food Hygiene at the University of Leipzig together with the INP is the development and optimization of plasma-based methods for the inactivation of Campylobacter and Salmonella on loose and pre-packaged poultry meat. The challenge here is to determine suitable technical parameters (e.g. working gas, contact time) for pathogen reduction. Furthermore, different technologies for the generation of plasma are investigated in order to enable optimal treatment options with regard to the mentioned parameters.

Project Manager:

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kolb
Phone: +49 3834 - 554 3950
juergen.kolbinp-greifswaldde

Duration from 1.4.2020 - 31.12.2021, funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) under contract number 35257/01-32.

Microalgae are considered a promising resource for many renewable raw materials. Various ingredients are of great interest as suppliers of high-quality proteins, as dietary supplements, natural colorants or as basic materials for cosmetic and also medical products. However, the extraction of these substances is currently still usually associated with high costs. Moreover, for many of the more interesting ingredients, a temperature increase during treatment and processing must be kept as low as possible, since they are not thermally stable. For this reason, chemical processes have mostly been used for digestion up to now, which are, however, questionable in terms of environmental impact due to the solvents required.

INP, together with the Institute for Grain Processing (IGV) GmbH, is therefore further developing an environmentally friendly plasma technology that is gentle on active ingredients and has already proved promising in preliminary work. In this process, the cell walls of the algae become porous via shock waves generated directly by pulsed discharges in the algae suspension, allowing the ingredients to escape. In principle, this eliminates the need for freezing or treatment with enzymes, but also the use of solvents. In the future, the process will be applied to other algae species and products.

Project Manager:

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kolb
Phone: +49 3834 - 554 3950
juergen.kolbinp-greifswaldde

Duration from 15.10.2019 - 14.12.2022, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) under the funding code (FKZ) 2816IP005.

For the first time, SPLASH is a project funded by the German Innovation Partnership for Agriculture (DIP). In this area of innovation research, funding is provided for projects that already have a high degree of technological maturity at the outset (at least TRL 5). Based on the pilot plant of the "safefresh" project, a plant in the medium performance range of industrial plants is now being built, which is based on a plasma-based washing process for fresh-cut salads. This plant will be integrated into the production of a fresh-cut manufacturer for operation and investigated under production conditions (TRL 7). Based on the ongoing investigations, a consultation procedure to determine the status as novel food will be initiated at the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL).

Project Manager:

Dr. Jörg Ehlbeck
Phone: +49 3834 – 554 458
ehlbeckinp-greifswaldde

Duration from 1.10.2019 - 30.9.2021, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) under the funding code (FKZ) ZF4037007RE9.

Since many combustible or highly flammable gases, such as natural gas or welding gas, do not have a significant inherent odor, odor-intensive substances are added to them. These warn people in the event of an unwanted gas leak. At gas pressure regulating and measuring systems with odorization devices, unwanted emission of the odor warning substances occurs due to weather conditions. This is a nuisance to people and the environment and also triggers false alarms. The odorants are not biodegradable and are harmful to organisms living in the water. Until now, activated carbon filters have been used to contain the odor. This solution is not optimal, because after a certain loading of the activated carbon, saturation and thus slippage of the odorous substances occurs. With this in mind, the need arises for a better solution that not only filters out the odorous substances, but also breaks them down. Non-thermal plasmas have been shown to be capable of oxidizing volatile hydrocarbons and other odorous compounds. The project will investigate the effect of plasma treatment on odorants of practical relevance and develop an approach for use in odorization facilities.

Project Manager:

Prof. Dr. Ronny Brandenburg
Phone: +49 3834 – 554 3818
brandenburginp-greifswaldde

Duration from 01.08.2018 - 31.01.2021, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the funding code (FKZ) TBI-V-247-VBW-86

In biogas plants, farm manure as well as biomass from care cuttings or biowaste are processed. In 2014, the contribution to total electricity generation in MV amounted to 15 percent. A total of 540 biogas plants with an electrical output of approximately 300 megawatts were connected to the grid in the state. In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 11.3 million tons of untreated cattle manure and 2.2 million tons of untreated pig manure are produced annually, and in addition, another unrecorded million tons of solid manure are emitted annually from livestock farming, which is becoming increasingly intensive. There is an enormous need for treatment and emission prevention here. According to the state of the art, currently (depending on the substrate) only 65%-90% of the organic content is digested in most biogas plants, the rest remains unused. The aim of the project was the development of a completely new combination of ultrasound and cold plasma technology for the treatment of suspensions with ingredients of biological origin or biomass.

For the combination with ultrasonic sources for biomass treatment two different plasma sources like the spark discharge and alternatively the microwave discharge were developed and tested. With both arrangements discharges could be generated in liquid media, respectively biomass. In laboratory scale studies of biomass and sodium carbomethoxicellulose treatment, both spark discharge and microwave discharge were found to produce degradation reactions by viscosity measurements. In the second phase of the project, a demonstrator with a capacity of 40 l was constructed by the project partner PRE Power, Recycling, Energyservice GmbH, containing two industrial-scale ultrasonic sources. A microwave source was used on this demonstrator. The investigations showed that the plasma treatment significantly increased the COD values of slurry fermentation residues. This could be observed especially in batch tests.

The feasibility of biomass treatment on an application-relevant scale and coupling with ultrasonic sources was successfully demonstrated. In further work, the power of the microwave source in particular should be increased.

Combination of microwave plasma and ultrasound for more efficient digestion of biomass

Projektleiter:

Dr. Volker Brüser
Tel.: +49 3834 – 554 3808
brueserinp-greifswaldde

Duration from 1.7.2018 - 30.6.2021, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) under the funding code (FKZ) 281A107216.

In this project, the cleaning and disinfection of food contact surfaces in production is investigated together with partners from research and industry using the example of conveyor belts for both vegetable and animal soiling.

Project Manager:

Dr. Jörg Ehlbeck
Phone: +49 3834 – 554 458
ehlbeckinp-greifswaldde

Duration from Feb. 1, 2016 - July 31, 2018, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) under funding code (FKZ) 16KN035932.

The risk of contracting a pathogen in hospital when the body is weakened by the consequences of an operation or illness is not inconsiderable. The German Society for Hospital Hygiene, for example, estimates that 900,000 infections occur each year throughout Germany, resulting in 30,000 to 40,000 deaths. Respiratory and urinary tract infections are the most common, as are wound infections and sepsis.

Triggers are not always poor hygiene processes in clinics, often the germs are also introduced by patients or visitors. Against this background, the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Research and Technology (INP) in Greifswald, the medical technology company Pneumatik Berlin, ZeSys e.V. in Berlin and the company Haustechnik Bachmann from Steinberg in Saxony have developed an intelligent, modular room air system for operating theaters within the joint project "PlasClean", the core of which is a special plasma stage. The effectiveness of this already patented decontamination process could be proven in laboratory experiments as well as in a pilot plant under real conditions.

Using modified electrode plates between which dielectrically impeded discharges are generated, the researchers succeeded in significantly reducing the contamination of room air with microorganisms. Chemical substances can also be broken down in this way. The DIN requirements for intensive care areas were taken into account in all tests: The plasma cleaned the exhaust air even at the prescribed high air turnover rates. The concept is also forward-looking for other areas of application and can be transferred to clean rooms, laboratories, animal stables or food logistics. The plasma stage is scalable, which means that an even higher reduction of microorganisms can be achieved. However, the technical feasibility must be researched in the context of further projects.

Project Manager:

Dr. Manfred Kettlitz
Phone: +49 3834 – 554 414
kettlitzinp-greifswaldde

Kinetics and simulation of reactive plasmas

As part of the Collaborative Research Center/Transregio 24 "Fundamentals of Complex Plasmas" (2005), the project includes, on the one hand, the analysis of the spatiotemporal behavior of species and chemical processes in reactive nonequilibrium plasmas. On the other hand, the interaction of such plasmas with surfaces is investigated by means of hydrodynamic modeling, kinetic methods as well as hybrid methods. In the funding period 2013 to 2017, the theoretical investigations will focus on molecular discharge plasmas at low and atmospheric pressure, which contain oxygen, nitrogen or organosilicon admixtures. The adaptation of appropriate plasma chemical models and their incorporation into the hydrodynamic, kinetic, or hybrid methods will enable the characterization of plasma properties, as well as the evaluation of the influence of individual species and the reaction kinetic processes in the bulk or on the surfaces, and improve the understanding of the interaction of plasma dynamics and fluid dynamics. The plasmas and discharges studied have applications in many plasma technologies such as pollutant engineering, ozone generation, plasma treatment of material surfaces, and thin film deposition.

Projektleiter:

Priv.-Doz. Dr. Detlef Loffhagen
Phone: +49 3834 - 554 320
loffhageninp-greifswaldde

Publications


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