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Controlling selective formation of free radicals in cold atmospheric-pressure plasmas


   Department of Physics

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  Dr E Wagenaars, Prof Victor Chechik  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Non-equilibrium plasma technology underpins many high-tech industries such as nanofabrication of computer chips, deposition of advanced functional coatings and production of solar cells. At the heart of these technologies is the non-equilibrium environment in these plasmas, producing a mix of radical atoms and molecules at low temperature that are then used in the applications. In particular, cold atmospheric-pressure plasmas (APPs) have gained significant interest over recent years because they can operate into open air, remain at room temperature, and still have the selective desired reactivity characteristics. They have many novel applications ranging from plasma medicine to green chemistry and food safety.

One of the main challenges in this field is the fact that the mix of radicals changes between the plasma where it is produced and the surface where the reactions for the application happen. Short-lived, highly-reactive radicals that are created inside the plasma react to form longer-lived species downstream from the plasma. It is not just the chemistry inside the plasma that needs to be understood and controlled, importantly the processes occurring between the plasma and the surface need to be taken into account as well. In addition, it is nearly impossible to create a single radical species in a plasma, there is always a mix of different radicals, limiting the selectivity of the induced reactions, making it hard to design optimal plasma parameters for applications.

This project focuses on developing devices that deliver a single radical species to a surface, enhancing reactions selectivity and enabling a superior control of the intended reaction. These systems are very well-controlled which means the underpinning plasma reaction and transport mechanisms can be studied and understood in detail, providing critical information for the design of efficient plasma sources for applications.

In particular, this project takes a novel approach and aims to use so-called mediator molecules to harvest the different short-lived radicals from the plasma and create a single, stable radical species that will be transported to the surface. Radical species and densities will be characterised using sophisticated (laser-based) plasma and radical diagnostics. With this technology, a well-controlled radical flux can be produced, enabling studies into the reaction pathways underpinning applications in plasma medicine and food safety.

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