Scientists from the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) and Institute of Aerospace Medicine received funding (710 000 Euro for three years) from the DFG for a joint interdisciplinary project focused on the interaction of plasmas and microorganisms. Plasma decontamination and plasma sterilization are promising alternatives to more commonly used decontamination and sterilization processes. It has been shown that low pressure and atmospheric pressure non-thermal plasma sources are effective against microorganisms, viruses, and biomacromolecules. In the joint titled "plasma-microbe interactions in the context of plasma-based surface decontamination" the scientists investigate how to use different plasmas can be used to inactivate bacteria, spores, and biomolecules for different relevant surfaces. The combined expertise of the Department of Physics and Astronomy (P. Awakowicz, J. Benedikt) on voluminous low pressure plasmas as well as atmospheric pressure non thermal microplasma jets on the one hand, and the expertise of the Faculty for Biology and Biotechnology of RUB (J. Bandow and F. Narberhaus) on vegetative cells and the research group Astrobiology from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) (R. Möller) on bacterial spores on the other hand will take up a challenge to address many of the open questions. The main contribution of the plasma physicists is the generation of well-defined conditions for the plasma treatment of biological samples with well-defined fluxes of all components of the plasma towards the exposed surfaces. The investigation of the effects of plasma on bio-macromolecules, vegetative bacteria and bacterial spores will be the part of microbiological research.
The research team led by Jun.-Prof. Jan Benedikt (Ruhr University of Bochum) wants to understand the plasma-cell interaction process in more depth with special focus on the response of vegetative cells and spores to different plasmas.