In the research group PLASMANT we are studying plasma and plasma-surface interactions by means of computer modelling and experiments, for various applications, but with main emphasis on green chemistry (i.e., CO2, CH4 or N2 conversion into value-added chemicals), plasma medicine, and microelectronics.

The research we perform on plasma-based CO2, CH4 or N2 conversion  includes modelling the plasma chemistry (by quasi-1D chemical kinetics modelling, focusing, among others, on the role of CO2 or N2 vibrational levels for better energy efficiency, vs. thermal processes and quenching, as well as on mixtures with CH4, H2O, H2 and N2), modelling various plasma reactors (i.e., dielectric barrier discharges (DBDs) and packed bed DBDs, microwave plasmas, gliding arc discharges and atmospheric pressure glow discharges) by 2D or 3D fluid models, to improve the design for energy-efficient CO2, CH4 or N2 conversion, modelling plasma-catalyst interaction (i.e., penetration of plasma species  inside catalyst pores, and density functional theory (DFT) and microkinetics modelling to study chemical reactions at the catalyst surface). We also do a lot of experimental research in various types of plasma reactors among others various types of gliding arc plasma reactors, atmospheric pressure glow discharges, microwave plasmas, pin-to-pin arc discharges, and dielectric barrier discharges.

Our second large research topic is plasma medicine, focusing mainly on plasma for cancer treatment.  We perform experiments with DBD and with plasma jets on various types of cancer cells. We mainly focus on melanoma, glioblastoma, pancreatic cancer and head and neck cancer. We perform in-vitro experiments (in 2D cell cultures, but also in 3D models, that are closer to real tumors, like spheroids and organoids, as well as the in-ovo model, and we also perform in-vivo experiments. These experiments are in collaboration with CORE (E. Smits, Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Care).  We have also performed experiments on plasma killing of various types of viruses, including corona-virus, in collaboration with the Laboratory for Microbiology, Parasitology and Hygiene (P. Delputte, Biomedical Sciences). This research started upon request of Prof. Jorens (head of the Intensive Care Unit of the Antwerp University Hospital), in their fight against SARS-COV-2, and maybe future pandemics. Finally, we also do computer simulations on the plasma chemistry inside the plasma jet, and its interaction with liquid medium, by 0D chemical kinetics models and 2D fluid models, as well as on the effect of plasma-induced oxidation of biomolecules, like DNA, proteins and phospholipids in the plasma membrane of cells, by means of molecular dynamics simulations, to better understand the underlying mechanisms of plasma medicine, in order to be able to improve the applications.

In the field of microelectronics and nanotechnology, we use a hybrid Monte Carlo – fluid model to describe the plasma chemistry and plasma-surface interactions in plasma reactors used for etching and film deposition, as well as Monte Carlo feature profile simulations for predicting etch trenches.

In the past, we also worked on analytical chemistry applications, for which we developed comprehensive models for glow discharges in dc, rf and pulsed operation mode, as well as for laser ablation (focussing on laser-solid interaction, plume expansion and plasma formation, and the gas dynamics in laser ablation cells), and inductively coupled plasma (ICP) sources, where we developed a model for sample introduction into the ICP, including evaporation, ionisation and excitation.

Finally, we also work on methodology development. For our plasma modelling work, we use existing software and codes, like COMSOL Multiphysics, ZDPlasKin and HPEM, but we also write our own codes. For instance, for plasma kinetics modelling, we write internal codes to interact with ZDPlasKin and many other coding tools (in Fortran and MATLAB), also beyond plasma kinetics modelling, for reaction analysis, conversion of chemistries between platforms (ZDPlasKin to COMSOL), automatic post-processing of BOLSIG+ data, etc. Also for our computational fluid dynamics modelling, we develop several tools and methodologies for combining various approaches, like self-consistent 3D coupled gas flow – plasma models, to solve very complex plasma problems with realistic simulation times.