Low-temperature or ‘cold’ plasmas are weakly ionised gases. They are composed of a few hot electrons (few eV or ~10,000 C), while the heavier more abundant ions and neutrals are close to room temperatures. These plasmas offer many technological applications, due to their efficiency to generate reactive species in ambient dry environments at low temperatures.
Plasma agriculture is an innovative field that applies plasma to agriculture processes such as farming, food production, food processing, and food preservation. In agriculture, plasmas may be used to eradicate all microorganisms; bacterial, fungal and viral particles in fruit and vegetables. It may also be used to enhance the germination phase of a plant’s life by treating water with plasma to increase the nitrogen content.
In this project, plasmas will be used to convert atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen molecules into nitrates, which can be applied directly to plant seeds or can be carried to the soil by dissolving in water. This project will involve the application of these ‘cold’ atmospheric plasmas to explore the production of reactive species and how they can initiate downstream chemical and biological processes, and associated enhanced plant growth.