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SPRING/SUMMER 2002

Center for NanoTechnology to push lithography below 35 nanometers

Zapping food pathogens at the source

Faculty profile: Rob Carpick

Zapping food pathogens at the source

Working to control pathogens in kitchens and food processing centers, cold plasma engineers are making appliance surfaces too slick for bugs to stick.

Biological Systems Engineering Assistant Professor Ferencz Denes employs cold plasma technology to modify the surfaces of food-industry materials, such as processing machines, preparation surfaces and packaging, to prevent bacterial attachment and biofilm formation.

The effort is important because many of the worst disease-causing pathogens in food, such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes, are stubborn and resourceful. They are capable of thriving in the nooks and crannies of food preparation implements, escaping even the most thorough cleaning.

Techniques developed by Denes and Food Microbiology and Toxicology Professor Amy Wong can follow two steps. The first changes the surface of materials to incorporate antimicrobial agents in extremely thin layers. The second fuses a protective film over the surface to make bacteria incapable of sticking and forming colonies.

The chambers that produce cold plasmas are relatively small, inexpensive and easy to use, and produce oxygen-based plasmas that operate at room temperature. Plasma-aided manufacturing uses electrically charged particles to alter the surface of materials, giving them unique or superior properties. Plasmas are formed by adding a gas to an electric field, which causes the gas molecules to split apart and form new compounds. The UW-Madison research team is also looking at the same techniques to improve sterilization of medical devices, such as catheters and implants.

 

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Date last modified: Monday, 17-Jan-2011 17:46:35 CST
Date created: 11-Jun-2002

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