A Ruhr-University Bochum researcher has developed a plasma sterilizer that is specifically suited for ridding medical instruments of germs efficiently, without damaging the material.

Junior Professor Dr Katharina Stapelmann, from the Institute for Electrical Engineering and Plasma Technology, designed the sterilization chamber as a drawer to hold standard tablets for medical instruments. The drawer may also be used as a sterile container.

"You can, for example, put a set that’s going to be used in an appendectomy into the device, sterilize it, and store the closed container in the cupboard right until surgery,” said Stapelmann.

Compared with traditional processes, plasma sterilization is more energy saving, faster, and does not require any harmful radiation or carcinogenic chemicals. Unlike autoclaves, which apply moist heat, the process can be deployed for synthetic components.

In collaboration with the German Aerospace Center, Katharina Stapelmann tested her method for metal screws which were riddled with the spores of the particularly stubborn bacterium Bacillus pumilis SAFR032.