27. August 2015   3:56 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL


Nondisclosure agreements often prevent me from sharing the details of many of our exciting developments—understandable yet frustrating!—but today I am pleased to talk in a general sense about an application that has the potential to improve the daily lives of countless people (and animals) around the world.

Plasma can improve the “wettability” of microsampling devices used to collect fluids for lab analysis, including well water, waste water, blood, tears, and synovial fluid.

Companies are using gas plasma in manufacturing to develop new devices that can quickly and consistently collect a fixed volume of the fluid to be tested. No special skill is required to collect the sample, and once the fluid’s analyte has dried on the tip, it can later be extracted using common solvents and analyzed—no centrifuge, transfer, or freezing are required.

Samples obtained in this manner are minimally invasive, resulting in less trauma to test subjects (including children and laboratory animals). Additionally, as compared with wet samples, samples obtained in this manner are easy to ship via regular mail as no dry ice or expedited delivery are needed to preserve the samples’ integrity.

This also means that people around the world, even in very remote areas, can participate in groundbreaking—and potentially life-saving—medical studies.

Amazing and inspiring stuff indeed!

Oftentimes, industry engineers are not fully aware of all the options (both in service and technology) Plasmatreat offers. But we have the infrastructure in application support and continue to strengthen it to support solution developments in the medical and life sciences markets—as well as many others.

As always, please feel free to get in touch if we can provide any additional information for you.

17. March 2015   12:01 am
Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian

We were pleased to learn that a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley will be presenting their findings related to a method of surface modification introduced by Plasmatreat North America. The work will be shared at the upcoming annual meeting for the American Association for Thoracic Surgery.

Researchers at UC Berkeley worked with the team at Plasmatreat N.A. to identify an effective method for heparin immobilization on electrospun polycarbonate-urethane vascular grafts.  Heparin incorporation provides implantable medical devices with antithrombotic characteristics.

The team explored three surface modification techniques:

  • aminolysis with 1-Ethyl-3-[3-dimethylaminopropyl]carbodiimide hydrochloride (EDC) chemistry as a chemical immobilization
  • polydopamine coating as a passive adsorption
  • plasma treatment paired with end-point immobilization to ultimately conjugate heparin on the graft surface.


The most effective modification was determined with respect to the heparin density as well as the antithrombogenic activity of the immobilized heparin. Then, the team proceeded with these optimized PCU grafts immobilized with heparin for short-term in vivo studies.

After 4 weeks, plasma-control grafts exhibited approximately 29% (2 of 7) patency, compared to 86% (6 of 7) patency of plasma-heparin grafts. More importantly, the team observed a more complete endothelialization of the luminal surface with a more aligned, well-organized monolayer of endothelial cells.

The team concluded, in vitro, that the combination of plasma treatment and end-point immobilization of heparin drastically improved the performance of the vascular grafts with respect to patency as well as early stages of endothelialization.

These findings are tremendously exciting because they signal a new era for implantable medical devices. In the past, a goal was to evade biological responses by selecting inert materials that delay host rejection.

Now, however, material modification are allowing researchers to immobilize biomolecules or cytokine, which in turn allows the surface of the device to regulate cellular behavior and to engineer surface response.

The team at Plasmatreat N.A. wants to thank our collaborators at University of California, Berkeley for their innovative utilization of plasma surface modification. Surface chemistry and topography play integral roles in biological development and remodeling. Gas plasma technologies are an effective tool for customized surface engineering.

Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian
Materials Scientist

Editorial July 2014

Plasma treatments are a permanent and covalent substrate modification.  However many references note diminishing effects of plasma treatments with time.  One generalized conclusion is that the plasma modification is a temporary effect.  This conclusion is not inherently accurate or applicable to all plasma and material systems.  In truth there are many factors that govern the success and longevity of a plasma modification.  Research in plasma lacks harmonization in equipment, setup/configuration, and material selection.  These are key variables in a plasma modification.  Results from one method may not necessarily translate well to another experimental setup or class of material.  For this reason some engineering reviews of gas plasma do more to confound than to elucidate the scientific dialogue within industry.


Equipment design is of particular relevance in plasma industry.  This includes but is not limited to the electrode configuration, matching, RF frequency, and equipment geometry.  Many apparatus used in academia boast custom fabricated equipment or custom modification to existing tools.  Their equipment exemplifies engineering capabilities.  In my opinion the effectiveness of the equipment to a material system is specific and rarely generalizable to all materials or apparatus.


Plasma chemistry and substrate material should be matched correctly.  Some polymer systems may be either resistant or sensitive to specific plasma chemistry.  It is not enough to report gas, pressure, and power.   A complete characterization should understand the plasma stoichiometry and a hypothesis of the surface interaction.  Furthermore it must be accepted that many polymer systems are mobile, may swell with gas or moisture, or may undergo relaxation mechanisms.  Therefore be careful to consider pairing a material system with appropriate plasma source and plasma chemistry.

Do you have an offshoring or re-shoring experience to share?
14. September 2013   5:38 pm
Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian

On September 13th I asked a Product Realization Group  panel whether they shared the perspective of US manufacturing as being risk-adverse and slow to adopt new manufacturing innovations.  I was surprised as to the answers I received.

Here in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere the culture of off-shoring is changing; especially in the high technology arena.  North American manufacturing still offers better inventory control, higher yield, better performance, and stronger rate /culture for innovation.  High technology development does not just apply to the product but to all aspects of product realization.  A locally integrated and culturally aligned supply chain enables quick response and a faster pace for adopting innovative practices.

A few hidden costs of overseas manufacturing are language barriers, time zone delays, supply chain management, and breaches in intellectual property.  The later involves overseas shops as transferring engineering diagrams, tooling, and shop floor practices among direct competitors!!  Many also find a greater resistance to change in China.  Furthermore the regulated spaces there are relatively ill-defined or inconsistent.

There is also a common misconception amongst students that manufacturing jobs are not good but this is simply untrue.  The educational systems should paint new images of modern manufacturing as cool and clean which are its true colors today.  Plasmatreat and Plasma Technology Systems are glad to be a part of new manufacturing innovation.


PRG – product realization group:


3. May 2013   7:38 pm
Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian

Did you know that PTS is internationally recognized for modifying the surfaces of microfluidic & biological devices?  Check us out on Lily Kim’s list of manufacturers.  These partnerships in small devices have a global footprint! Our team’s contribution to the community are elements of advanced polymer chemistry and gas plasma physics; a knowledge that simply translates to targeted conjugation of complex compounds.   We say complex because of the uniquely commercialized methods by which our gas plasma interacts with a substrate.  In some biological applications it is desirable to deliver functional species intact and un-fragmented.  The PTS development lab closely consults its affiliates in how to construct novel surfaces for these new applications.  Although fluidic technologies start micro many need to end big and in high volume.  We make the big or small step using plasma.

My colleague Mikki Larner shared with me a chart illustrating the growing importance of polymeric substrates in the Medical and Microfluidic arena.  Two undoubtedly powerful factors are processing  cost and scalability.

Fluidic substrates


23. January 2013   6:07 pm
Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian

Micro fluidic devices and sensor surfaces may require a specific binding property or a capacity to react with a fluid.  Functional groups such as amine, hydroxyl and carboxyl (to name a few) will evoke system specific responses such as binding to proteins, nucleotides, and adhesives.  Plasma begins by removing organic surface contaminants by reducing them to volatile compounds.  The nascent surface is subsequently reacted to process specific plasma chemistry. The intensity and duration of a plasma process is deterministic in the surface functionality and density that result.  If the density of a functional moiety is either too high or too low this may hinder an intended surface reactivity.


The table above illustrates the percentage of elemental nitrogen detected on a gold surface as measured by XPS before and after plasma modification.  This amine is covalently bound to the surface meaning it is permanently incorporated onto the surface.  This is exemplified by the persisting nitrogen composition post solvent wash (see ‘Amine washed’ in the table above).  Different amine densities result from varying the plasma intensity and exposure.  It is noteworthy that plasma processing isn’t a linear phenomenon and therefore judicious selection of power, pressure, and time may be necessary.  More power and more time does not always translate to denser species loading.  This is because a plasma operates between regimes that may be either addition or ablation dominant.


Amine Density - Process power vs time


12. December 2012   1:47 am
Mikki Larner

Mikki Larner
Belmont, CA

The last few months have been a whirlwind of conferences, speaking engagements, trade shows, customer visits, lots of meetings, a few visits to our North American headquarters (Chi town), Canadian offices, the mother ship (Germany), and a sprinkling of board meetings.

One of the highlights was attending the Biointerface 2012 meeting in Dublin.

(Oh, when in Dublin, I highly recommend dining at the Winding Stair for delicious tastes of fresh unadulterated seafood  MAKE A RESERVATION or be prepared with a warm coat as you walk around waiting for your 10 pm table.)

The folks at UCD and pulled together an excellent forum with a tremendous focus on use of plasma for “medicine” and let us in to the labs at UCD for a tour to include a demonstration of our Openair tool.

I have pages and pages of notes from the meetings and want to share a few stand out quotes and notes relevant to our technology:

“Interface influences failures”

Mr. Reto Luginbuehl (RMS Foundation, Switzerland)
The impacts on interface include: biology, modulus, surface chemistry, wear, morphology, infection, roughness to name just a few. It is so important to remember this when designing a program. Everything needs to be tested…not just surface energy with water. Need to understand all types of interactions with the surface for a successful product design.

Dr. Anna Belu, Medtronic, had an excellent case study about contamination which hit close to home as plasma is often used to remove UNEXPECTED contamination from various sources such as packaging or residue from gloves.

There were excellent poster presentations. One standout was from UCD. They report superphobic (150deg+) surfaces via atmospheric plasma using siloxane precursors. Sounds like there are some stability issues with the surface, but nonetheless, the advances in AP are promising.

Professor Buddy Ratner provided the keynote on “Emerging Biointerface Solutions – Translating in vitro results to the In Vivo Environment” and provided one of the best quotes of the conference (I don’t recall who originally make the statement, so Prof. Ratner can take the cred.):

“Engineering is the instrument of civilization”

His talks are always interesting and he is a dynamic speaker.

Prof. David Grainger followed with his very passionate presentation on correlating in vitro and in vivo as well – specifically for anti microbial. His point about understating patient genetic profiles/genetic dispositions as part of the solution in reducing infection is the future. Clinical testing / device testing (pre market) is limited to a specific population thus doesn’t capture the true effectiveness of the device. Unfortunately setting up an in vitro test protocol to screen our diverse population is not feasible due to $$$. So his point, well taken, is if the FDA will allow products that are proven SAFE on the market, the efficacy data will build as the product as used.

Mr. Bob Ward, ExThera (former PTG now DSM), presented on controlling surface chemistry for treating bacteremia and sepsis. Of interest to me were his comments about how surface density is greatly affected by structure. An import variable in plasma process development programs is appreciating the structure and surface area of a device and result on surface chemistry.

Dr. Marcela Bilek, University of Sydney, presented on “Bioactivation of surfaces using embedded radicals.” Great talk on use of plasma for infusion (my interpretation) of reactive species into bulk of polymers. She notes metals as well, but sounds like she is creating an interface on top of the metal. An important point of her talk and others is that wet chemistries can be timely, toxic, slow and expensive — reinforcing the benefit of plasma as an alternative. In some examples, wet chemistry processes take upwards of 60 hours. This can often be reduced or replaced in full by a plasma process at 5 to 10 or 20 minutes.

Overall it was a thought provoking conference and a great opportunity to network with the surfaces community. I look forward to next year!

This will probably be my last entry for the year….off to Germany for our annual sales meeting and back home for some R&D, OOPS, I mean R&R.
Happy new year!

Collegue Graham Porcas

Openair Plasma in Dublin, Colleague Graham Porcas demonstrating the equipment

12. October 2012   5:41 pm
Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian

Markets are improving the accessibility of medical and diagnostic devices to their consumers. ‘Point of care’ diagnostic equipment brings medical testing into the patient’s home for convenient and accurate monitoring. Recent innovations make use of wireless data transmission and also integration with mobile devices. Product evolution drives diagnostic devices further into the realm of fast moving consumer goods where success meets lowest possible price point. Enter commodity plastics. Commodity plastics including polyolefins such as PE and PP are excellent material selections as one time use disposables. They are literally cheaper than dirt, they exhibit good stability or shelf life, and they provide robust mechanical properties. Simple hydrocarbons however lack the surface polarity required for compatibility with most biological fluids.

Both atmospheric and low pressure plasma solutions provide surface functionalization at low cost and without modifying the bulk performance. Atmospheric plasma systems provide high speed surface activation and/or silanization. Low pressure plasma enables modification of complex geometries or custom engineering of surface structure. The bottom line is lean, green, and affordable alternatives to expensive material selection and/or wet surface chemistry modification. My final two ₵ents on disposable devices; plasma modification.

23. August 2012   4:42 pm
Jeff Leighty

Jeff Leighty
Elgin, IL

NASA has found yet another innovative use for plasma science. The Mars rover Curiosity is equipped with some cutting edge technology for analyzing the rocks as it rolls.

First, a laser shoots the rock with a million watts of power for 5 1-billionths of a second. The laser’s power excites atoms in the rock forming-you guessed it-plasma! Stopping there would be cool enough but NASA keeps going. A camera then analyzes the plasma to gather data on the composition of the rock. Repeated zaps on the same spot can reveal changes with depth in the rock’s composition. Together the laser and the camera have been dubbed ChemCam. What will they think of next?

For plasma applications on Mars call NASA. If your application is more Earthly in nature contact Plasmatreat! 855-4TH-STAT

6. August 2012   4:53 am
Mikki Larner

Mikki Larner
Belmont, CA

Low pressure plasma is a controlled method for modifying the surfaces of materials. Our core competency is in modifying polymers. We’ve modified almost every type of polymer from silicones to fluoropolymers. These products range in size from nano-powders to 5 foot wide webs and membranes. Our company has been modifying life science materials for over 30 years. These include drug delivery platforms, fluidic devices, assay tools, ophthalmic Devices, implantable engineering polymers, stents, leads and their delivery devices.

The most practiced technology is activation (or functionalization) for subsequent adhesion attachment. In a functionalization process, the plasma species energy is used to break surface layer molecular bonds and leads to an altered surface chemistry. The plasma chemistry (and the substrate) drives the resulting functional groups.

Our laboratory includes 100s of different chemistries derived from gases and vapors from liquids. We’ve conducted sublimation work as well. The technology routinely is used for introducing chemistries that traditionally are conducted via wet chemistry. The technology offers tremendous controls and a short process cycle (< 15 minutes).

For the life sciences, typical functionalizations include:
• Hydroxyl
• Carboxylic
• Carbonyl
• Amine
• Vinyl
• Glycidyl
• Thiol

These groups can be closely coupled to a surface or distanced by chains.

Customers request these groups for attachment to:

• Amino acids, peptide attachment
• Coatings to resist biofilm attachment, coagulation
• Antimicrobials
• Biomolecular immobilizations
• Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
• Hyaluronic acid
• Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA)
• Surfactant coatings
• Hydrogels

We also practice thin film depositions (all organic). This process is called Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD).

Typical coatings are around 40 – 4000 Angstrom thick. These coatings are dry. Coatings include:

• Polystyrene, Polyethylene
• Fluoropolymer, fluoroacrylates
• Siloxane (also via Openair)
• PEGylated (Tetraglyme)
• Aminated
• Polyacrylate
• Hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA)
• Ethylene Oxide

Customers request these coatings for:
• Interfaces (or tie layers)
• Hydrophobicity
• Oleophobicity
• Lubricity/decreased COF (dry)
• Biocompatibility
• Functionalization
• Chemical resistance
to name a few.

Primarily we modify devices and this does include combination devices. As polymers are being used more and more for target therapies, plasma has become a viable means for modifying surfaces to change release capabilities or modify other surface properties.

The technology is versatile. Controlled. Inexpensive. There is no waste. It is environmentally and workplace safe.