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Plasma-Producing Paper

May 3, 2017

Engineers turn paper into a high-tech microbe zapper.


Image courtesy of Jingjin Xie

Flexible paper-based plasma generators – consisting of laminated assemblies of honeycomb patterned, metallized paper – can be customized as a Rutgers spirit logo. (Image courtesy of Jingjin Xie)


Electronic paper that kills germs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

We don’t think of paper as an advanced material, but Rutgers engineer Aaron Mazzeo would like to change that.

AARON MAZZEO (Rutgers University):

So paper is an ancient material, but we’re very excited about applications and science in which paper begins to behave more like a high tech material.


He says paper’s flexible, has pores that gases can flow through, and doesn’t melt at high temperatures. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he and his colleagues described using paper with a thin layer of metal hooked up to a voltage source to create a kind of glowing bug zapper for bacteria: the sheets produce high energy plasma that kills any microbes that get close. He says the material could eventually be made into self-sterilizing clothing for healthcare workers, and used in the artificial skin of prosthetic limbs and robot arms. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon