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Development of a plasma device for rapid disinfection of contaminated hospital materials: Hospital‐Use Plasma Unit (HUP‐Unit).

The SARS‐CoV‐2 pandemic has exposed how unprepared our society was in preventing the propagation of highly infectious diseases, protecting the healthcare providers and patients, and efficiently organizing the logistics, while managing large numbers of patients. For the past two years, hospitals have battled to mitigate the spread of the virus in their facilities, a challenge that included the need to daily dispose of thousands of unused, individually‐packaged medical products that could not be disinfected with the traditional disinfection methods. On average, the Antwerp University Hospital (UZA) produced around 250,000 kg of medical waste per year. In 2021, the amounts of medical waste increased by more than 10% compared to the pre‐COVID period. Globally, the pandemic not only increased the cost for hospitals, but it also increased the generation of waste around the world by 400‐500%. Moreover, at the height of the pandemic, there was even a critical shortage of medical supplies. Therefore, this was not only an environmental and financial issue, but also a serious healthcare burden. In order to be better prepared for future pandemics, we have prepared a mission‐oriented innovation project, which responds to a specific request from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at UZA. In our IOF‐POC CREATE project here, we aim to develop a non‐thermal plasma (NTP)‐based disinfection device to rapidly eliminate viruses from unused, individually‐packaged medical products: the hospital‐use plasma unit (HUP‐unit). Our HUP‐device will utilize a completely innovative cylindrical geometry design feature with materials to be disinfected, to enhance NTP generation and contact with a large volume of material, and ensure complete, uniform treatment. Indeed, we have to design a completely novel NTP device concept, which we will categorize as a 'moving‐bed' dielectric barrier discharge (DBD). By using the individually‐packaged hospital products as part of the NTP generation mechanism, our 'moving‐bed' DBD HUP‐unit offers a scalable solution to provide rapid disinfection in the hospital. Based on our understanding of plasma dynamics and computational plasma simulations, we have developed this theoretical design, but the feasibility of creating a working prototype remains to be seen. Therefore, in this IOF‐POC CREATE project, we will produce and validate our prototype HUP‐unit in the lab. If successful, our HUP‐unit will allow us to: i) mitigate shortages in individually‐packaged medical products; ii) reduce the waste produced by healthcare facilities and associated waste management cost; iii) reduce the incidence of hospital‐acquired infections.
Date:1 Sep 2022 →  Today
Disciplines:Physics of gases, plasmas and electric discharges not elsewhere classified, Strategic design, Systems design, Virology