2018-19 Rapid Ag: Atmospheric Pressure Non-thermal Plasma for Sanitizing Animal Production Facility Air

June 9, 2017

Principal Leader

Roger Ruan


Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering and Center for Biorefining

Funding Awarded

  • 2018 Fiscal Year: $100,000
  • 2019 Fiscal Year: $100,000

The Problem

Poultry diseases such as avian influenza caused by airborne pathogens have serious economic consequence. The ability to control the outbreak and spread of such diseases has important regional significance.


Airborne pathogens in animal houses and laboratories are concerns to both human and animal health. Viruses and bacteria are common airborne pathogens in animal production environment. Diseases caused by these airborne pathogens have serious economic consequence. Recent avian flu outbreaks (Spring, 2015) caused by the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus hit chicken and turkey farms in Minnesota and Iowa hard. By the end of the outbreak HPAI had spread to over 105 farms in Minnesota, resulting in the death of over 4.8 million turkeys and 4.2 million layer hens. This has a domino effect rattling the entire poultry industry supply chain, from corn growers to feed mills to trucking companies, from turkey and chicken farms to poultry processors. A processing facility in Faribault laid off more than 230 workers due to the decrease in turkey flocks going to market during and post-outbreak. Tremendous emotional stress affected individuals in all segments of the poultry industry.  While it has been almost 2 years since the H5N2 outbreak regionally, alarms are now being raised because of occurrence of other H5 and H7 outbreaks in Asia, Europe, India, and Israel (http://www.foodmarket.com/ December 28, 2016). The avian flu is not going away soon and farms have to prepare for it to come again in the future. An effective and economical air sanitizing system would be a valuable tool for Minnesota poultry producers. 

PNTP devices can be easily integrated into air intake systems and ventilation and air circulation units in animal houses. Air can also be decontaminated before entering and leaving the houses to control and prevent transmission of airborne pathogens. The APNTP treatment can also effectively remove odorous compounds in the air. Other potential use of the technology may be in areas where equipment is stored, supplies are brought in ('quarantine room'), or worker entry areas or areas where workers gather. No scientific study on use of non-thermal plasma to kill avian flu virus was found in the literature. We will work with scientists in the College of Veterinary Medicine to study the effectiveness of APNTP on inactivating common poultry pathogens (bacteria and viruses including low pathogenic avian influenza strains) as an indirect indicator of effectiveness against HPAI virus. Lack of federal select agent status prevents the use of the actual highly pathogenic virus or other HPAI viruses in testing. The final step will be to evaluate the feasibility of using APNTP technology for preventing airborne diseases transmission in a small scale poultry facility.


The goal of this proposed project is to employ an engineering approach to control airborne pathogens transmission by sanitizing the air that is circulating in or entering and leaving barns. The process will also simultaneously decompose odorous compounds and reduce odor emissions. The proposed approach is based on atmospheric pressure non-thermal plasma (APNTP) technology. The technology has been reported in the literature to be effective in killing bacteria and viruses [1-7]. APNTP is probably the only technology with proven ability to kill a range of viruses (e.g., hPIV-3, RSV and influenza virus A (H5N2))[1]. If successful, the technology could be applied to other agricultural production settings such as swine and to reduce and manage porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and porcine epidemic diarrhea (PEDV) outbreaks.  

  1. To develop lab scale APNTP reactors for air sanitization (Ruan and Chen, Year 1)
  2. To conduct air treatment and evaluation tests (Liang, Ruan, and Chen, Year 1)
  3. To design and fabricate a small pilot facility for testing and demonstrating APNPT in a small (scalable) animal house (Ruan, Chen, Noll, Janni, and Liang, Year 2)
  4. To disseminate research findings and communicate with stakeholders (Noll, Janni, Years 1 and 2)


  1. Terrier, O., et al., Cold oxygen plasma technology efficiency against different airborne respiratory viruses. Journal of Clinical Virology, 2009. 45(2): p. 119-124.
  2. Gallagher, M.J., et al. Non-thermal plasma applications in air sterilization. in Plasma Science, 2004. ICOPS 2004. IEEE Conference Record-Abstracts. The 31st IEEE International Conference on. 2004. IEEE.
  3. Gadri, R.B., et al., Sterilization and plasma processing of room temperature surfaces with a one atmosphere uniform glow discharge plasma (OAUGDP). Surface and Coatings Technology, 2000. 131(1): p. 528-541. Sung, S.-J., et al., Sterilization effect of atmospheric pressure non-thermal air plasma on dental instruments. The journal of advanced prosthodontics, 2013. 5(1): p. 2-8.
  4. Ruan, R. et. al. 2002. Odor removal system and method having ozone and non-thermal plasma treatment. U.S. Patent No.: 6,451,252.
  5. Ruan, R., et al., Non-thermal disinfection of biological fluids using non-thermal plasma, 2006, US Patent No: 7,011,790
  6. Ruan, R., et. al. 2005. Method and apparatus for non-thermal pasteurization of living-mammal-instillable liquids. US Patent No: 6,911,225.
  7. Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, UMN, Epidemiologic Study of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N2 among Turkey Farms, 2015, University of Minnesota.
  8. USDA APHIS VS., Epidemiologic and Other Analyses of HPAI - Affected Poultry Flocks: September 9, 2015 Report, 2015, USDA.