home-made plasma cleaner

July 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm | | everyday science, hardware, science@home, stupid technology

I really want a plasma cleaner, for cleaning coverslips and activating glass for PDMS bonding, but they cost thousands of dollars. I thought that was a lot of money for a glorified microwave. So I made my own.

Drill a few holes in glass:

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Make a PDMS seal (thanks Kate):

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Glue the chamber:

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We’re ready to go!

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Fill the chamber with argon, evacuate it, turn on the microwave oven, and … voila! … a plasma:

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Below are slides before and after (right) plasma treatment. You can see the contact angle of water is dramatically reduced.

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It works!

Well, not really. I found that the plasma really only stays lit with argon. When I flow air in, it extinguishes, but also burns some of the rubber hoses. That adds more dirt to my slides than I want.

Conclusion: don’t do this at home. :)

(Well, that might be a little harsh. It does work well to bond PDMS to glass. And I’ll try a longer etch sometime to see if it will ever clean the coverslips.)


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  1. How creative of you. Plasma etch Inc. just created a new Plasma cleaning system called the Magna that is the first system that doesn’t require CF4 gas.. Check it out.. http://www.plasmaetch.com

    Comment by Sarah Flagg — July 23, 2014 #

  2. […] had previously made my own plasma cleaner using a pump and an old microwave. While my homemade version technically worked, it was complicated to use, unwieldily, and […]

    Pingback by Everyday Scientist » plasma cleaner review — December 18, 2014 #

  3. You have great passion and hand for inventions. I promise I will not do this at home (x.o)

    Comment by Mateo — February 26, 2015 #

  4. Can you put peice of metal into the argon chamber for cleaning? Will it arc? Kgeorge@blade-energy.com

    Comment by K — August 5, 2021 #

  5. I didn’t try, but yeah it would probably arc.

    Comment by sam — August 27, 2021 #

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