Peter Bruggeman is inaugural recipient of U-M Prize in Plasma Science and Engineering

Prof. Bruggeman's research has impacted healthcare, sustainability, and green manufacturing.
Peter Bruggeman accepts plasma prize
Prof. Benjamin Jorns (L), member of the MIPSE executive committee, presents the award to Prof. Peter Bruggeman. Photo: Miranda Howard

Prof. Peter J. Bruggeman has been awarded the University of Michigan Prize for Excellence in Plasma Science and Engineering, “For contributions to the understanding of non-thermal plasma interactions with solids, liquids, and living matter, scientific leadership, and advancement of plasma-based technologies enabling applications in plasma-biology, chemical conversion, and water treatment.”

Bruggeman, the Ernst Eckert Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, is an internationally recognized expert in low temperature plasmas. His groundbreaking research has made scientific advances contributing to healthcare through decontamination and wound healing, environmental sustainability through water treatment, and green next-generation manufacturing through chemical conversion.

This is the inaugural  U-M Prize for Excellence in Plasma Science and Engineering, which was established by the Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering (MIPSE) and the College of Engineering. It is open to nominations from the international community, and is awarded to individuals whose research has broad societal benefits. The prize was announced at the 2023 Gaseous Electronics Conference, held in Ann Arbor, MI.

“Michigan Engineering is honored to support the U-M Prize in Plasma Science and Engineering,” said Steven Ceccio, Interim Dean of the College of Engineering and the Vincent T. and Gloria M. Gorguze Professor of Engineering. “Peter Bruggeman represents the ideals of this award in providing the research community with fundamental knowledge to advance progress in plasma science, while also applying that knowledge to some of the most pressing problems society faces today.”

photo of the individuals attending the conference
Peter Bruggeman received the Plasma Prize at the 2023 Gaseous Electronics Conference, Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Miranda Howard

Bruggeman is among the first researchers to investigate the use of plasma to inactivate viruses. For example, he demonstrated the successful use of plasma to control airborne viruses in ventilation systems. He is collaborating with a company to pursue promising research in eradicating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) biofilms. 

His research on plasma-liquid interactions is critical to the treatment of persistent toxic chemicals in water, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which belongs to the group of PFAS forever chemicals, a major issue in the groundwater in many locations in the U.S. and around the world. His technology has been adopted to produce plasma activated water used for decontamination and applications in agriculture. 

His 2009 and 2016 review articles published in Journal of Physics D and Plasma Sources Science and Technology in the area of plasma-liquid interactions are among the most highly cited in the field.

Bruggeman is Director for the Multi University Research Initiative (MURI) Plasma-driven solution electrochemistry (Plasma physics meets solution chemistry), and Associate Director of the  DoE Center on Plasma Interactions with Complex Interfaces. Both have the potential to advance the goal of sustainable manufacturing: the first through the synthesis of nanomaterials and polymers, and the second by using plasma to convert electrical energy into chemical transformations. 

The latter research is contributing to the grand challenge of facilitating a CO2-neutral chemical industry. His team is co-developing a plasma process for iron ore reduction, which utilizes H2 and is fully CO2-free. This innovation could have a significant impact on reducing the 9% of total CO2 emissions caused by steelmaking.

Upon receiving the award, Bruggeman stated, “Low temperature plasmas, or LTPs, have an enormous track record as an enabling technology for a vast range of material processing applications that shaped our modern society.  While I have high hopes for the renaissance of LTPs in material processing and electric propulsion, I am particularly excited about emerging opportunities for low temperature plasmas in contributing to a sustainable and carbon neutral society.”

Bruggeman has received numerous honors, including the American Vacuum Society Peter Mark Memorial Award, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Young Scientist Medal and Prize in Plasma Physics, and the Department of Energy Early Career Award. He leads the High Temperature and Plasma Laboratory at the University of Minnesota, where he also is Director of Graduate Studies for Mechanical Engineering. In the wider professional community, Bruggeman has served as Chair of the 2018 Gordon Research Conferences on Plasma Processing Science, and he will Chair the 2025 International Symposium on Plasma Chemistry. 

“My research has enabled me to work at the interface between science and engineering for nearly 2 decades,” said Bruggeman. “This has provided me not only the opportunity to explore new plasma physics but also to learn about different research areas such as virology, food science, biology, material science and chemistry. I am really grateful to the many wonderful collaborators who provided me with an opportunity to learn something new almost every day.”