Following the completion of its 10th International Space Station campaign, data from European-Russian experiment Plasma Kristall 4 (PK-4) is packed for return to scientists on Earth.
PK-4’s focus is low temperature gaseous mixtures known as ‘complex plasmas’ made up of ions, electrons, inert gas and micro-particles. Due to the strong influence of gravity on the micro-particles, most experiments on complex plasmas are strongly distorted or even impossible on Earth.
Plasma for the PK-4 experiment is created with neon or argon gas in tubes that give particles an electrical charge. The experiment allows researchers across the world to better understand how an object melts, how waves spread in fluids and how currents change at the atomic level.
In fact, a team of scientists has already made use of the know-how gained from developing the experiment to build plasma devices that disinfect wounds at room temperature. This revolution in healthcare has many practical applications, from food hygiene to treatment of skin diseases, water purification and even neutralising bad odours.