The proposed non-thermal plasma sanitation technology can create more effective ways for reducing the number of cases of food-borne illness due to contaminations. Existing food sanitation technologies center around the use of chlorinated water to reduce contaminant levels, which is not portable, requires consumables, and is not entirely effective. Irradiation of fresh foods has been used to increase shelf life and reduce contaminants, but public perception may not be positive. Non-thermal plasma technology is scalable, can be portable, does not require consumables, and does not affect the flavor of fresh foods. The technology could be implemented in a small volume application (e.g., a restaurant or kitchen), a medium volume application (e.g., a raw food processing facility or farm cooperative), or a large volume application (e.g., a food packaging plant). The relatively low power consumption of the technology makes it a good candidate for green power facilities or remote access applications.
Non-thermal plasma can be used to sanitize fresh foods grown in the space habitat and to sanitize raw ingredients either produced on orbit or sent up as bulk raw ingredients. It is also an ideal technology for sanitation of food production, food processing and food preparation equipment and surfaces. The technology appears to be efficient in terms of resources such as water and mass, and can replace chemical disinfectants in most applications. The function of this technology is insensitive to reduced cabin pressure and reduced gravity. Other potential NASA applications for cold plasma technology include preflight decontamination of instruments for planetary exploration to remove chemical residues as well as microbes, and for use in air and water decontamination systems. The portability of the technology may also allow for individuals to sanitize workstations or other common use areas.