Plasma engineering expert a positive addition to the Faculty

13 February 2019
Highly cited academic joins the University of Sydney
The Faculty of Engineering has attracted international plasma engineering expert Professor PJ Cullen to the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Professor PJ Cullen poses outside of a University of Sydney sandstone building


Professor Patrick Cullen is a leading expert in the research and development of cold plasma technologies and high-powered lasers for plasma biological application, and was most recently Group Head of the Food, Water, Waste Research Group at the University of Nottingham, UK.

He has published over 190 journal articles to date on various topics related to plasma engineering and was designated as a highly-cited researcher by Clarivate Analytics in 2017 and 2018.

Professor Cullen’s research within the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will focus on how cold plasma interacts with biological material for food preservation, water treatment, crop growth, biomass and gas conversion and cancer treatment.

“Cold plasma technologies have applications in the agriculture, water treatment, medicine and energy sectors as biomolecules are protected from thermal damage usually associated with plasma treatment” says Professor Cullen.

“I am looking forward to leveraging the facilities and expertise of the multidisciplinary teams at the University, specifically with the Sydney Institute of Agriculture and my colleagues within engineering.”  

The aim he explains, “is to replace our reliance on traditional chemicals such as fertilisers, antibiotics and disinfectants and to adopt new technology to solve environmental and industrial challenges”.

Professor Cullen will continue to investigate how hotter plasmas can be used for elemental analysis of materials using high-powered lasers to better improve real-time detection and mapping of harmful heavy metals and chemicals in food, medicine and the environment.

“I am thrilled to be back in Sydney and am excited to continue my research at the University. The University’s facilities and expertise will allow me to develop technologies for an array of different applications, and to test them literally in the field.”

His most recent work has involved testing food and feed samples sourced from Bangladesh with the aim to detect naturally occurring arsenic and other heavy metals which are contributing to a national health crisis.

As CEO of PlasmaLeap Technologies, and previously Technology Director at Innopharma Labs in his hometown of Dublin, Professor Cullen brings with him a wealth of commerical experience.

"We are delighted at Professor Cullen’s appointment and are looking forward to utilising his commercial experience and research focus to address both industrial and global grand challenges," says Professor Dianne Wiley, Head of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.