Inactivation of microorganisms using electrostatic fields

Maosheng Yao, Gediminas Mainelis, Hey Reoun An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


This research investigated whether electrostatic fields can be used to inactivate surface-borne and airborne microorganisms. Vegetative cells of Pseudomonas fluorescens and Bacillus subtilis var. niger were deposited on filters and subjected to electrostatic fields of different strengths and polarities for controlled time periods. In addition, P. fluorescens bacteria, which represent sensitive species, were aerosolized and exposed to electrostatic fields of up to ± 10 kV/cm. The results have shown that more than 90% of the P. fluorescens cells deposited on the surface of nonconductive filters are inactivated when fields of 15 kV/cm are applied for 30 min or longer. Similar effects were observed when P. fluorescens were exposed to fields of 5 and 10 kV/cm for 2 h. In contrast, the culturability of B. subtilis var. niger cells exposed under the same conditions did not substantially decrease. Exposure of airborne P. fluorescens to ±10 kV/cm for 30 s also did not result in a significant reduction of culturability. This research has shown that specific combinations of electrostatic field strength and exposure time can be used to effectively inactivate certain bacterial cells deposited on nonconductive surfaces. For the investigated conditions, the treatment was not effective for bacteria in the airborne state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3338-3344
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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