Knoxville company developing breakthrough plasma technology

Knoxville company developing breakthrough plasma technology

"One of the more interesting things we have is plasma aerodynamics," Alan Wintenburg says. "One of the more interesting things we have is plasma aerodynamics," Alan Wintenburg says.

April 19, 2006

By ADAM LONGO
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- A Knoxville company is at the forefront of a medical breakthrough. The plasma technology it is developing is expected to save lives and protect people from infections.

Atmospheric Glow Technologies (AGT) just finished a two year study with the National Institutes of Health. The results could change health care and medicine worldwide.

The company is using a plasma technology, the same kind as in flat screen TVs and florescent lights. But the applications go far beyond medicine.

"This test chamber was used for our latest Army project," says engineering Director Alan Wintenburg. "We could use the plasma for biological warfare agent decontamination."

"We're thrilled. The impact of this technology is just tremendous," says microbiologist Suzanne South.

"One of the more interesting things we have is plasma aerodynamics," Wintenburg says. "We modify the plasma to determine how an airplane flies through the air."

And there is also a plasma forensics unit that can extract DNA.

But right now, AGT is focusing on biofilms, microscopic bacteria that lives in medical tubing such as a dentist's water tube.

"The conditions are just right for these bacteria to attach to the inner surface of the tubing, to continue to grow and become a source of infection for the patient," South says.

The plasma attacks the biofilms, breaking them down in seconds. Those biofilms can attach to anything artificial in the body. A National Institutes of Health study shows 65 percent of hospital infections are caused by biofilms.

Next for the company is a marketing study to see how it can put its product on the market for everyone.

Researchers are also looking at plasma applications that could improve air quality, indoors and in flight.

The company started as a collaboration between UT's microbiology and engineering departments.

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