Ivan Kuznetsov, 17, is a senior at William G. Enloe High School. Since his sophomore year he has been interning and conducting research in Dr. Alexei Saveliev’s lab at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NC State University. He is the lead author of a research paper published in Applied Energy, a recognized professional engineering journal. He is also listed as an innovator on two currently pending U.S patent applications. For his research Ivan was named a two-time Semifinalist of the 2010 and 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. Outside of the lab and classroom, he is a senior board member and coach of Enloe’s Science Olympiad team, captain of the Science Bowl team, as well as holds leading roles on the Quiz Bowl and Math teams. He has tutored his peers in math and science since middle school, and now he is a board member and group leader of the Science Days volunteering club, which has a goal of introducing local elementary school children to science and scientific concepts. In his spare time, Ivan is an avid chess and tennis player.
Mentor: Dr. Alexei Saveliev
Development of Cold Plasma Textile for Filtration and Decontamination Applications
Secondary infections are the leading cause of death in hospitals worldwide. The existing HEPA filters used to shield from pathogens in environments subjected to bacteriological contamination provide only passive protection relying on particle capture and retention. The developed prototypes of an inexpensive, flexible and durable new material, a plasma textile, combine the unique antimicrobial and filtration properties of cold (non-thermal) plasma with the elasticity of a textile, and allow the capture and deactivation of bacteria, thus providing active antimicrobial protection from airborne and surface pathogens. The uniqueness of cold plasma as a disinfecting agent lies in the inability of bacteria to develop resistance to plasma exposure, as they can for antibiotics.
The primary hypothesis of these studies is that a micro-plasma array can be embedded in a textile fabric to induce a plasma sheath (“plasma shield”) that filters and deactivates bacterial pathogens coming in contact with the fabric.
The work proceeded through a series of steps: (1) determining the optimal type of plasma discharge; (2) finding the ideal wire electrode materials, radii, and placement to achieve stable, uniformly-distributed non-thermal plasma; (3) modeling the electric field surrounding electrodes to explain observed effects and estimate the impact of an insulating textile on the electrode system; (4) testing various polymers and developing a plasma textile based on electrode geometries found in experimentation; (5) measuring the filtration efficiencies of the plasmas using a condensation particle counter; (6) testing the textile’s ability to deactivate bacteria.
The work confirmed the existence of sustainable, uniform plasma on the surface of the developed fabric that was capable of capturing over 98% of bacteria-sized particles and deactivating tested bacteria.
IVAN’S UPDATES FROM BEIJING:
March 25, 2012
Today I woke up and could not muster the motivation to actually get out of bed, given how late I had stayed up last night because of the evening party. Nonetheless, I dragged myself to breakfast, and by the time I had finished eating I was awake. After the meal we were driven over to the awards ceremony.
After a short introduction, the ceremony began. All of the international students were grouped into a single category, and medals were awarded to every participant. However, medals were tiered, and so the top group got gold medals, the next silver medals, etc. Everyone in the United States group got gold medals. After the international participants were awarded medals, the announcers moved on to awarding the local Beijing participants. First the special prizes awards were announced, of which there were many. Many of them included a monetary prize, something the Chinese participants were very excited about. About 40 such special prizes were given out, most of them for the sum of $300. However, there was one grand prize for $3000. After that came the actual competition results. Just like for international students, the medals were tiered, and the top group received gold medals. After the awarding of the medals, the ceremony was over, and the entire group went to take down their posters. On their way out of the poster hall, Mr. Nolan had the entire group take pictures in different locations in Yucai School.
Then, it was lunch time, and we headed over to the Yucai School cafeteria to enjoy our final meal there. The cooks had put in their best effort this time around, for the food was absolutely delicious. We ate gladly and then got back on the bus to go to the hotel and change into more comfortable attire than the fancy suits we had all been wearing. After changing, we got back onto the bus and headed over to the Summer Palace.
The Summer Palace was more of a huge park than an actual palace, but it was beautiful nonetheless. After a short climb up hill, we arrived at a large lake with a wonderful view of Beijing. There were a large amount of local people scattered around the entire area. We spent an hour walking through the Palace grounds before heading back to our bus and returning to the hotel for our final dinner there. Tomorrow was to be an early morning, so after dinner everyone very quickly dispersed and retreated back to their rooms, collapsed in their beds, and went directly to sleep.
March 24th, 2012
Today, like yesterday, featured sunny weather. I woke up, headed down to breakfast, and then proceeded down to the buses and then to the poster hall. It was the public display day, which meant that, today, the locals would get the opportunity to look at the different projects that had been conducted and ask questions from the people that had done them. I stood by my poster for the larger part of the five hour period, only venturing out to look at other peoples’ work a couple of times. A majority of the locals that approached me were interested in nothing else than taking a picture, which I honestly did not mind. However, a select few did come to ask in depth scientific questions related to my work and to share their own input. I particularly enjoyed these latter experiences, as they indicated that I had been able to communicate my work even to those that were not educated in the field I was working in. For me, it was a sign that my poster presentation had been, at least relatively, successful.
At some point I was approached by a Chinese senior who, for a school assignment, was to go around and interview as many international participants as possible about their work. I gladly answered her questions, many of which focused on my reasons for starting the project, whether or not I would be pursuing it, etc. There were similar experiences with other people, many of whom simply wanted to hear stories about the Untied States and know how the education system worked. In the latter part of the day I was approached by a professor from the engineering department of Beijing University who was very interested in my work. He told me that he was quite familiar with the field I was studying, as he himself had a team doing related research. We exchanged contact information and agreed to stay in touch.
Around midday the entire group decided to head off to lunch. We decided against eating the usual cafeteria food, which although good, had gotten slightly repetitive. Instead, we joined the Australian group and headed off on a 45 minute walk to a local market place. It was nice to get the opportunity to get out and witness natural Chinese culture. Once at the market place, we went off of the main road to get a glance at the more local stores, the ones not meant for tourists. We went into one of the restaurants there. The waiters did not speak a word of English, but luckily our translators saved us. We ordered a variety of foods, including the traditional Peking roust duck and something resembling Korean barbeque.
After lunch we headed back to the evening party of the competition where the various international students demonstrated their talents. We saw the Australians share a slide show, the Malaysian group sing a love song, the Japanese group act out a fable, and then it was our turn. We invited several people up to stage to join us when we danced to “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and they swelled our ranks and made our group look much larger than it really was. Indeed, the dance went quite well, as with such a large group of people no one noticed what any specific person was doing. Then, it was already 9:30, and we made our way back to the hotel and immediately crashed into bed and fell right asleep.
March 23rd, 2012
This morning I woke up to much brighter weather. For the first time since my arrival I was able to see the sky of Beijing. I put on my clothes rapidly, threw on my suit, and headed down to breakfast. Once again, the breakfast room was crowded, but I was too rushed to really dwell on it. 20 minutes later, I got on the bus and headed down to Yucai School.
The judging session began almost as soon as Vipul, Greeshma, Alyssa, and I arrived at the poster hall. Our first judge was Chinese and seemed to have a hard time understanding what I was saying. Nonetheless, Alan helped translate his questions into English, and I managed to provide answers. The second and third judges were also Chinese, and their respective sessions went much the same way. The fourth judge, however, was Australian, and spoke completely fluent English. He seemed to understand the entire group’s work quite well and gave excellent feedback on everyone’s work. The entire judging session lasted four hours, and by the end everyone was dead tired.
After the judging session, we headed down to lunch, where we found a similar choice of meals as we had seen at yesterday’s dinner. We ate quickly and headed back to the poster hall to look at others projects. Greeshma and I decided to walk around and take as many pictures as possible, and Vipul and Alyssa soon joined. We met a variety of different foreign representatives. The two Italian delegates finally got a chance to explain their olive oil related project to us, and they also made sure to give us a taste of distinctly Italian olives and extra virgin olive oil. We then moved on to the Dutch representatives; they shared salted licorice with us and laughed when they saw us grimace after biting into the bitter food. Nonetheless, their projects were very impressive (one was on the mechanism behind Northern lights and the other on painkillers). We then headed over to the Malaysian posters, were their translator explained that their project was concerned with building a more fuel efficient kettle. Finally, we visited the Korean delegates, who had down their work on decreasing the amount of energy wasted on air conditioning.
Along the way, we met a Chinese girl named Scarlett, who was in 10th grade. She told us that she had thought of her American name from Gone with the Wind, a fact that the entire group found amusing. She proudly informed me that I looked like Harry Potter, a resemblance that many others had already pointed out. She was extremely nice, and gave each of us a small, glass blown dragon to take home. She also introduced us to several projects down by other members of her school, many of which were quite complicated and impressive.
Once we had met and talked to everyone, we went to the auditorium to attend the opening ceremony of the competition. Everyone was given blinking clapper wands to use throughout the ceremony. The first 30 minutes were filled with speeches by different officials of the tournament. I was surprised to find that they spent most of their speeches promising that the entire judging process would be perfectly fair. After their talks, there was a short show in which a young girl sang an apparently famous Chinese song. Then the ceremony finished and everyone moved back to the poster hall.
The next hour was spent talking to Chinese dignitaries and media personnel who came by with cameras and camcorders and asked us about our projects. It was nice to not have to be worried about being graded for what I said. I had some fun explaining my work and showing my fabric to others. Finally, we finished for the day and drove back to the hotel for the opening banquet.
I rarely eat until I am full, but I definitely did so during the banquet. I do not think I had ever seen so much food before. I attempted to try a bit of everything, so as to not waste the opportunity. One of our translators, Irene, made sure to explain what everything was. One thing that particularly intrigued me was something Irene called a “black fungus.” It was not a mushroom, as it tasted different, but it had a similar texture. Nonetheless, I found the flavor interesting. During the dinner, Mr. Nolan introduced the entire United States delegation to the competition group and we smiled and waved to the cameras pointed at us. Finally, at around 8:30 PM, the competition ended and I headed upstairs to go to bed. I was dead tired, and I crumpled onto my bed and nearly immediately fell asleep.
March 21-22, 2012
After a day in the air we arrived in Beijing, China. After going through passport control and customs, we picked up our baggage and hopped on one of those fancy buses that tourists are always driven around in. The trip itself was only a dozen or so miles, but traffic turned it into an hour and a half journey. Once at the Dong Feng Hotel, we immediately headed to the dinner buffet, pausing briefly to toss our baggage in our rooms. At dinner we ran into the Italian delegation, which was composed of several students, many of whom barely spoke any English. Nonetheless, we managed to figure out that their projects dealt with, stereotypically enough, olive oil. Everything after that was mostly a blur, and I can barely recall collapsing in bed later that night.
I woke up the next morning at 7 AM from a wake-up call placed by one of our translators, Alan. I went online to check the weather forecast for that day, expecting to find out whether it would be sunny or rainy. Instead, I was informed that the day would be: “smokey.” Faintly unsure of how to dress for “smokey” weather, I just grabbed a warm jacket and headed down for breakfast. The breakfast hall was packed with people of a multitude of different nationalities, many of whom spoke little English. I was pleasantly surprised to meet the Ukrainian delegation, because I was able to communicate with them, quite fluently, in Russian.
After breakfast my group and I headed down to the buses, which promptly drove us to the museum of natural history. On the way there, I quickly realized how terrifying driving in Beijing really was. Pedestrians seemed to appear out of nowhere, and cars seemed to simply never yield. Once there, we walked around the museum with another of our translators, Irene, who translated several of the dinosaur and animal names we encountered there into English. By far the most interesting displays in the museum were the ones in the “Human Body” section, which were essentially equivalent to those one could see at the “Bodies” exhibition in the United States. Our time at the museum was quite limited, and we headed back for lunch around 11 AM.
Lunch was uneventful, but I got to enjoy the fact that I already knew how to use chopsticks, while the rest of my group, except for Vipul, did not. After lunch we headed over to the close-by Yucai School, where the poster competition was to be held. We spent an hour or so struggling to figure out how to set up our posters. Eventually, we settled on simply using double sided tape to put them up. After all that was said and done, we proceeded to translating portions of the poster into Chinese, so that tomorrow’s judges would be able to understand exactly what we had worked on. As Alan was writing out the translated text, Greeshma, Alyssa, Vipul, and I decided to walk around and examine the other projects. We ran into the Australian delegation, which was actually composed of people from several different provinces. The eagerly informed us about the dangers of a small, marsupial animal they called a “dropbear.” According to them, 31.5 out of 125 residents had been attacked by these creatures, which were particularly vicious and extremely dangerous. It took me quite a bit to figure out that the animal was completely imaginary, and that the entire story was simply a national joke.
We then toured the second floor of the poster presentation hall, where we found the work done by the younger kids. Their contest consisted of drawing pictures of “innovations of the future.” Although hardly plausible, their ideas were nonetheless quite beautiful. One in particular stood out, for it claimed that in the future all carwashes would be replaced with elephants that would use their trunks as nozzles. The entire group found that particularly interesting. We then headed back downstairs, and joined the Australian kids in their game of “British Quiz Bowl,” which focused heavily on James Bond references and famous British actors.
Finally, at the end the day, we headed down to the Yucai School cafeteria to eat dinner. On our way there, we stopped at the school playground and enjoyed some distinctly Chinese culture. To be honest, the playground contained constructions which I had never seen before, many of which I was unsure of how to use. After our short stop the entire group went to pick-up their food and then moved into a classroom to sit and eat. All the food was rather good until I moved onto the supposedly vegetarian soup. I never did figure out whether or not the soup was actually vegetarian, for after my first bite, I rapidly abandoned any notion of eating any more of it. It reminded me distinctly of faintly rotten mushrooms. After realizing that I would be unable to force myself to eat another bite of it, I threw it out.
After the food, we hopped back on the buses and returned to the hotel. The group dispersed as slept crept onto its members, and more and more people succumbed to it. The following day was to be rather hectic, as we were to present our posters to the international judges, and so everyone wanted to be well rested. I returned to my room and made sure to go to bed by 10 PM.