Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Plasma Pencil

PostedJune 18, 2006

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Randy Atkins:  Plasmas are glowing streams of gas….charged atoms, molecules, and loose electrons created by electric bursts which often make them quite hot, but…

Mounir Laroussi:  If the atoms and the molecules are not getting energized by the electrical power that we are putting in it, the gas stays cold.

Randy Atkins:  Mounir Laroussi, an engineer at Old Dominion University, has developed a magic-marker sized wand that generates just the right amount of electricity…and creates a beam of cool, but chemically active, plasma.

Mounir Laroussi:  That chemistry can act on cells and lead to cell destruction, for example, if you want to sterilize or decontaminate something.

Randy Atkins:  But Laroussi says it doesn't harm human cells, so it might be used to prevent infections and dental plaque.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.  

Laroussi says many companies have expressed interest in the wand, but the technology is still at least a few years away from being used in your dental office.  To find out more about this story, go to and click on "Innovative Engineering" under "Quick Links" at the very bottom of the page.