All About Innovation: Brown University Trial Shows Potential of Plasma-Treated Water to Aid Plant Growth

Will Planet Earth be ready for 2050?

That’s the year when the world population reaches the count of 9 billion, a sobering contrast to 2.5 billion inhabitants in 1950, and 7.5 billion today. It’s also the year when global food production, according to the World Bank, must rise by 50% to feed this unprecedented mass of humanity. Only a dramatic uptick in innovative technological activity throughout the agricultural industry --and generous funding—will make this happen. Today, private and public Investment is doing its part to respond to this urgent need. Billions of dollars are pouring into universities, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and other technological organizations to stimulate innovation in agricultural research, development, and production. Advanced Plasma Solutions (APS) is one of those innovators.
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A technology development company for plasma-based applications, APS was founded by a group of business-savvy executive- investors who created a technological ecosystem under one roof at its Malvern, Pennsylvania headquarters. In this setting, first-rate engineers, scientists, technicians, and business experts interact and exchange knowledge and expertise to create innovative technology using plasma for numerous industries such as agriculture, energy, environment, and medicine. Plasma, which occurs when gas becomes ionized, makes up 99% of matter in the universe, including the sun, stars, and lightning. APS focuses on today’s cutting-edge plasma research, non thermal or cold plasma, which can operate from room temperature to very hot and demonstrates an almost limitless amount of applications. In one of its many collaborative relationships, APS is working with the Brown University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to study the potential of plasma in developing critical technology for future agriculture.

When water is enhanced with plasma, it produces reactive nitrogen and oxygen species that appear especially plant-friendly. In February 2017, Brown completed its first trial for APS, a 14-day study of the potential of plasma-treated water to speed the growth and improve the yield of healthier tomato plants. To set up the trial, researchers soaked 10 tomato stem cuttings in two parts spring water and one part plasma-treated spring water in a plant cube. The control group of 10 similar cuttings grew in spring water only. APS expects to commercialize the Plasma Water Treatment device, which creates plasma water in a process using water, air and electricity.

By day 8 of the trial, all 10 cuttings in the plasma mixture bore roots, one day ahead of the non-plasma group. At study end, the dried roots from the plasma-treated cuttings weighed .3103 grams, nearly double the .1626-grams recorded in the non-plasma group. This new evidence that plasma water may promote in plants a faster-growing and more robust rooting system than spring water adds to a mounting body of knowledge about potential benefits of plasma water to food production.

A leap from results of plasma-treated tomato cuttings to industrial-scale farming that moves the needle in world agricultural production may take decades. But in the meantime, plasma researchers in Russia, the Ukraine, South Korea, Europe and other major nations are rapidly discovering exciting new applications of plasma-based solutions to the world food shortage. Researchers at universities including Kurchatov Institute in Russia, Cologne’s Max Planck Institute and Rhode Island’s Brown University are tomorrow’s problem solvers of the world food crisis. APS has committed to working with world researchers to move forward this cutting-edge movement that seeks nothing less than the eradication of global hunger.

*The APS/Brown University collaboration will continue in 2017 with further studies of plasma on root development.

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