Whiffy kitchen after last night's chips? Clear the air with SPACE PLASMA

Experiment on International Space Station rivals Teflon's 'unexpectedly useful stuff from space program' crown

Fifteen years of plasma experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) could let people enjoy the lusciously unhealthy taste of deep-fried potato chips, without having to smell them first.

[What's wrong with you? Why would you want to eat chips without the thrill of anticipation first?]

The work being done by German deep-fryer manufacturer Blümchen is aimed at commercial kitchens [Oh, all right, we suppose that's different.] The company reckons the current approach – an industrial-strength commercial hood with huge fans and filters that have to be cleaned – is overdue to enter the 21st century.

In dealing with the molecules created by deep-frying, the hoods also create ozone that has to be removed from the air workers and diners might otherwise breathe.

Hence Blümchen's interest in plasma: usually created in very hot gases, the Max Planck Institute's Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics has been conducting “cold plasma” experiments.

One of the pioneers of the plasma experiments, Professor Gregor Morfill, has gone on to found Terraplasma to exploit the technology.

Space plasma odour remover

Terraplasma and Blümchen have spun an air-purifier out of the ISS's longest-running experiment

The unit Morfill is working on with Blümchen sparks a discharge between a short electrode rod in the middle of a cylindrical electrode, and the discharge is magnetically rotated to create a 1mm thick plasma disk.

When air passes through the disk, electrons in the plasma react with the odour molecules and neutralise them, and instead of the huge hood, the plasma “filter” only needs a 10-cm-long cartridge.

A prototype is planned for 2017, and the ESA's post with video is here. ®

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