There are some bacteria that are remarkably hard to clean off your body. A perfect example of this is the heat- and antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus faecalis โ€” it's notoriously hard to expunge, and kills many hospital patients. Now a group of Chinese and Australian scientists have found a way to beat this bacteria and others like it โ€” by blasting your skin with plasma.

They've created a device that's described as a "a room-temperature, battery-operated, handheld air plasma jet," called a plasma flashlight for short. Powered by a single 12V battery, the plasma jet only exposes skin to temperatures of 20-23ยฐC (68-73ยฐF), but is remarkably good at killing off pathogens that form biofilms, or thin layers of bacteria. It so happens that E. faecalis and its deadly relatives all form these biofilms.


To prove the devices effectiveness, they pitted it against biofilms that were by incubating the bacteria for seven days, and were comprised of 17 layers of bacteria, stretching 25 micrometers thick. A five minute exposure from the light killed the bacteria down to the basal layer.

It's not well understood why plasma is so toxic to bacteria, but in the field, the researchers believe that the jet could prove effective in just tens of seconds. The device costs less than $100 to build, and could hopefully be used to help stop the spread of antibiotic resistant infections in hospitals โ€” or else it'll just end up in Skymall, being sold to germaphobes the world over.