Cold plasma technology to clean swine barn air

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSv) costs the US swine industry more than $580 million each year. First described in North Carolina, Iowa, and Minnesota in the late 1980s, the virus rapidly spreads through swine barns and is one of the industry’s biggest game changers. Additionally, pigs infected with virulent strains exhales aerosols containing a large quantity of the virus.

Today, researchers in the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the CVM are looking to apply research they are doing on decontaminating foods in collaboration with the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering (CSE) to swine barn air filtration in an effort to further promote swine health and safety in the food industry at large.

Plasma, served cold

Plasma is defined as partially or fully ionized gases with neutral net charge. It consists of a cocktail of photons, ions, free radicals, molecules, and atoms—many of which are highly reactive, which allows for many applications, including water decontamination. Plasma sources can also be engineered to produce plasma at close to room temperature—often referred to as cold plasma—enabling the treatment of highly heat-sensitive surfaces, such as some foods.

2D- integrated coaxial micro hollow dielectric barrier plasma discharge array
Plasma (purple) is produced inside the holes of the array, through which air is blown. Pathogens are inactivated when they come into contact with the air coming through the holes in the array.

The United States Department of Agriculture is supporting Sagar Goyal, PhD, professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the CVM; Peter Bruggeman, PhD, professor of Mechanical Engineering at the CSE; and their team of researchers in pursuing the use of cold atmospheric gaseous plasma technology for decontaminating food and food-processing surfaces.

The team is seeing success in the lab—bacteria and viruses stand little chance against the cold plasma they are making.

According to Goyal, the laboratory results look extremely promising. “If a surface is contaminated with viruses or bacteria, we can kill them,” says Goyal. “If food is contaminated—as early as during harvest by food handlers—our goal is to use cold plasma to kill the contaminants.”

A pig impact

“Meanwhile,” says Goyal, “swine farmers are already using air filtration systems to mitigate disease. But these are not foolproof, so if we can combine them with this cold plasma, it would be helpful in getting rid of any disease affecting swine that can be transferred by air.” This includes, but is not limited to, PRRSv. So, cold plasma could positively impact the food and agricultural industry in more ways than one.

Follow the link to read more about how cold plasma could be used in swine barns.

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