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PhD Studentship - Non-thermal Plasma Rapid Dry Decontamination on Sensitive Space Instrument

School of Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Monday 31 August 2020
Reference:  1265920DA

Supervisory team:                 Min Kwan Kim and C. William Keevil 

Project description

This PhD project aims to develop a rapid dry disinfection system using the bactericidal capability of non-thermal plasmas and printed electronics and to advance the fundamental knowledge of interaction between non-thermal plasma (NTP) and biological materials.

Recent COVID-19 outbreaks in the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess cruise ships highlights the high risk that an infection will spread in confined spaces such as aircraft and spacecraft through contaminated surfaces. Crews and passenger in spacecraft can be infected by touching contaminated surfaces because viruses and bacteria will adopt a new mode of transmission as it evolves. Recent studies on human coronavirus 229E shows that coronavirus can survive over 4 days on various touch surface materials. Moreover, recent findings published to Frontiers in Microbiology have showed that the herpes virus reactivates in more than half of the crew aboard Space Shuttle and ISS missions, due in large part to the numerous stresses of space travel. This includes months of exposure to microgravity and cosmic radiation, in addition to the extreme G-forces experienced during take-off and re-entry. It is known that astronauts’ immune cells become less effective during spaceflight and sometimes for up to 60 days after. Therefore, it is important to have a solution to stop the spread of viruses through the touching of objects in spacecraft.

As a novel concept of dry decontamination method, this project is proposing the use of non-thermal plasma. Although non-thermal plasma can induce the inactivation of microbes by the Fenton reaction, they have not seen widespread application because, until recently,

(1) they could not be generated uniformly over large surface areas; and

(2) they required non-ambient carrier gases such as helium.

This project will alleviate these issues using new plasma creation schemes, thin-layer DBD and soft plasma jet, with the aid of printed electronics. Specific objectives of the project include:

(1) preparing and validating bacterial samples; 

(2) developing a plasma disinfection system (known as plasma brush);

(3) quantifying concentration and distribution of biological samples before and after plasma treatment;

(4) measuring the effect of plasma input power and exposure/operating time on coronaviruses;

(5) quantifying inactivation efficiency; 


(6) collating and interpreting results to assess the efficacy, promise, and potential implementation pathway for the concept

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Minkwan Kim, Astronautics Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2716.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 30 June 2020 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: full tuition fees for EU/UK students plus for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £15,285 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. 

How To Apply

Applications should be made online, please select the academic session 2020-21 “PhD Eng & Env (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Min Kwan Kim under the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

For further information please contact: 

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