Coming down with a cold is a major pain, and sometimes it’s impossible to know when or where you even got it. That’s the nature of airborne sickness, and the common cold is just one of many that make life difficult for individuals unlucky enough to become infected simply by breathing and moving around.

Now, a new study examining the potential of a special gas to eliminate airborne viruses and bacteria is showing some serious promise, and it could curb major public health problems if utilized correctly.

As reported in The Conversation, researchers have been exploring the potential applications of what is known as non-thermal plasma, or NTP. NTP is the term given to gasses consisting of charged particles, where the particles have been energized but the gas itself remains cool, such as the gas inside of a fluorescent light.

NTPs aren’t just useful for lighting a room, however, and their power to rapidly kill microorganisms has been exploited in the food industry as well as various medical fields. The energized gasses are extremely efficient at sterilization, and the researchers involved in this new study discovered that such gasses can effectively eliminate some 99.9% of airborne viruses when the two come into contact.

The team built a non-thermal plasma reactor to test its feasibility in sterilizing large quantities of air, using it on the ventilation system of a farm to determine how well it could rid the air of pathogens. The NTP system appears to be a promising alternative, or perhaps an augmentation, for existing air filtration systems that are used in public spaces where many bodies pass through.

Actually implementing and rolling out NTP systems on a large scale would be a costly endeavor for any major city, and more testing will still have to be done to ensure the safety of such a system, but the payoff in overall public health could be well worth it.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech. Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.