Using plasma -- superheated, electrically charged gas -- Gregor Morfill at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics say he is developing ways to kill bacteria and viruses that can cause infections in hospitals.
The research began on the International Space Station, where his physics experiments, funded by the European Space Agency, have been running since 2001, an ESA release from Paris said Friday.
The work in space has led to the potential for very practical terrestrial applications, Morfill said.
Plasma dispensers can tackle a serious problem -- super-strains of bacteria that can survive the strongest antibiotics in medicine's arsenal -- that has been growing in recent years, he said.
"What we have with plasma is the possibility to supplement our own immune system," Morfill said.
Morfill is designing a system that makes use of plasma's innate anti-bacterial properties to make disinfection easy and quick.
"It has many practical applications, from hand hygiene to food hygiene, disinfection of medical instruments, personal hygiene, even dentistry -- this could be used in many, many fields," Morfill said.