Research in the Graves group focuses on the fundamentals and applications of weakly to partially ionized gases, or plasmas, to technological problems. Recently, the Graves group has flcused its interests primarily on biological and medical applications of plasmas. These plasmas operate at relatively low gas temperatures - around room temperature - and are therefore quite different from the hot, usually strongly magnetized plasmas in stars or that are used in thermonuclear fusion and weapons applications. The key problems in this field are related to the coupling of the chemically reactive neutral gas and electrons and ions that make up the plasma. This is especially true at surfaces exposed to the plasma. Indeed the primary applications of interest to the Graves group are related to interactions between the plasma and its bounding surfaces, especially those that involve biological fluid phases.
In the News
Devices that create ionized plasmas could be life-savers in the developing world or on the battlefield, providing an inexpensive way to sterilize water and medical instruments.
David Graves, UC Berkeley professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, is experimenting with low-temperature plasmas as a way to remove tenacious infectious molecules, such as the prions that cause mad cow disease, from surgical instruments. He hopes low-cost plasma devices can be used in developing countries to sterilize water, wounds and medical supplies.