What is Plasma

During 17th Century, the existence of fourth state of matter resulted in an international debate among scientist all over the world. The study of ions and electrons indicated that there can be another state of matter which was not composed of molecules. This fourth state consisted of charged ions and electrons and was named as plasma. It took time to find plasma but it was present before the inception of life on earth. Plasma is everywhere and even our universe is made up of plasma. Stars and planets are composed of plasma and even some part of earth comprises of plasma.

Historical perspective

Sir William Crookes was the first scientist to discover the fourth state of matter. It was an accident but in 1879 he reported that there is a fourth state which doesn’t behave like the three states known to man. He also said that it is a a very energy state unlike the low energy states. Later in 1929, Dr. Irving Langmuir named this fourth state as plasma.

Types of plasma

Artificial plasma is artificially produced in factories and is used in Plasma Televisions and fluorescent lamps. Air in front of heat shield of a spacecraft is heated at a very temperature and forms plasma. Terrestrial plasma is another form of plasma which is produced by lightning and the ionized air found in the ionosphere is also plasma. Third and last form of plasma is cosmic plasma which is found in Sun and other stars. The cosmic plasma is also present in space between planets, star systems, and galaxies.

Basic understanding of plasma

Plasma is nothing but an ionized gas. Plasma is a direct result of ionization of gas. So, like gas, plasma can attain any shape and volume. Due to the presence of ions and electrons, plasma exists at very high temperature. The presence of free charged particles makes it responsive to electromagnetic force. Plasma is capable of generating magnetic and electronic field by itself. Any gas which has electronic charge can be rightfully termed as plasma. Natural producer of plasma is lighting. Lighting produces a charged air or it charges the air which comes in contact. Sun is an example of cosmic plasma.

When a gas is heated, the electrons revolving around the nucleus leaves which results in the formation electronically charged particles. These electrons behave like an ion, which itself is a chemical specie, just like atom and has its own nucleus. Thus, these ions or electronically charged particles form the plasma.

Properties of plasma

Plasma thrives at very high temperature around thousand degree Celsius or more, otherwise it will unionize to form a gas. Plasma is the only state of matter that can conduct both electronic and magnetic fields. Its conductivity is very high. Plasma is a high energy state which lies between two charged particles.