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Pure Appl. Chem. Vol. 74, No. 3, pp. 349-358 (2002)

Pure and Applied Chemistry

Vol. 74, Issue 3

Plasma sterilization. Methods and mechanisms*

Michel Moisan1,**, Jean Barbeau2, Marie-Charlotte Crevier3, Jacques Pelletier4, Nicolas Philip1, and Bachir Saoudi1

1Groupe de physique des plasmas, Université de Montréal, B.P. 6128, Succursale Centre-ville, Montréal H3C 3J7, Québec, Canada; 2Laboratoire de Microbiologie et d'Immunologie, Faculté de Médecine Dentaire, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, Succursale Centre-ville, Montréal H3C 3J7, Québec, Canada; 3Groupe de Recherche en Biomécanique et Biomatériaux (GRBB), Département de Génie Biomédical, École Polytechnique de Montréal, C.P. 6079, Succursale Centre-ville, Montréal H3C 3A7, Québec, Canada; 4Laboratoire d'Électrostatique et de Matériaux Diélectriques, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Université Joseph Fourier, B.P. 166, 38042-Grenoble Cedex 9, France

Abstract: Utilizing a plasma to achieve sterilization is a possible alternative to conventional sterilization means as far as sterilization of heat-sensitive materials and innocuity of sterilizing agents are concerned. A major issue of plasma sterilization is the respective roles of ultraviolet (UV) photons and reactive species such as atomic and molecular radicals. At reduced gas pressure (£10 torr) and in mixtures containing oxygen, the UV photons dominate the inactivation process, with a significant contribution of oxygen atoms as an erosion agent. Actually, as erosion of the spore progresses, the number of UV photons successfully interacting with the genetic material increases. The different physicochemical processes at play during plasma sterilization are identified and analyzed, based on the specific characteristics of the spore survival curves.

* Lecture presented at the 15th International Symposium on Plasma Chemistry, Orléans, France, 9-13 July 2001. Other presentations are presented in this issue, pp. 317–492.
** Corresponding author.


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