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Plasma Sources Science and Technology








Plasma medicine refers to the application of nonequilibrium plasmas at approximately body temperature, for therapeutic purposes. Nonequilibrium plasmas are weakly ionized gases which contain charged and neutral species and electric fields, and emit radiation, particularly in the visible and ultraviolet range. Medically-relevant cold atmospheric pressure plasma (CAP) sources and devices are usually dielectric barrier discharges and nonequilibrium atmospheric pressure plasma jets. Plasma diagnostic methods and modelling approaches are used to characterize the densities and fluxes of active plasma species and their interaction with surrounding matter. In addition to the direct application of plasma onto living tissue, the treatment of liquids like water or physiological saline by a CAP source is performed in order to study specific biological activities. A basic understanding of the interaction between plasma and liquids and bio-interfaces is essential to follow biological plasma effects. Charged species, metastable species, and other atomic and molecular reactive species first produced in the main plasma ignition are transported to the discharge afterglow to finally be exposed to the biological targets. Contact with these liquid-dominated bio-interfaces generates other secondary reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS, RNS). Both ROS and RNS possess strong oxidative properties and can trigger redox-related signalling pathways in cells and tissue, leading to various impacts of therapeutic relevance. Dependent on the intensity of plasma exposure, redox balance in cells can be influenced in a way that oxidative eustress leads to stimulation of cellular processes or oxidative distress leads to cell death. Currently, clinical CAP application is realized mainly in wound healing. The use of plasma in cancer treatment (i.e. plasma oncology) is a currently emerging field of research. Future perspectives and challenges in plasma medicine are mainly directed towards the control and optimization of CAP devices, to broaden and establish its medical applications, and to open up new plasma-based therapies in medicine.


Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.

Original Publication Citation

von Woedtke, T., Laroussi, M., & Gherardi, M. (2022). Foundations of plasmas for medical applications. Plasma Sources Science and Technology 31(5), Article 054002.


0000-0001-6871-9001 (Laroussi)