Plasma - 11/Jan/2024

Plasma – 11/Jan/2024

Introduction to Plasma

Plasma distinguishes itself as the fourth state of matter, beyond its more acknowledged counterparts: solid, liquid, and gas. Sometimes referred to as an “ionized gas,” plasma is found in abundance in the universe and in common technologies like television screens, neon lights, and even the sun and stars. Understanding this unique state of matter requires in-depth exploration of its attributes, its discoveries, its applications, and the pivotal role it plays in our daily life and universal phenomena.

Formation and Characteristics of Plasma

Plasma is essentially an extremely hot gas. When the gas gains adequate energy either by heat or other electrical means, the electrons within the gas atoms can be jostled free. This results in a mix of free electrons and ions. These free electrons produce plasma’s distinctive characteristic – the ability to conduct electricity. Unlike its other states of matter which are electrically neutral, plasma carries an overall neutral charge but also comprises positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons.

Although plasma is often associated with high-temperature environments, such as the sun and other stars, it can also exist at lower temperatures. This is evident in innovations like fluorescent lights and plasma television screens. Plasma’s conductive properties and responsive behavior to magnetic and electrical fields distinguish it from other states of matter, making it valuable in numerous applications.

Historical Discovery and Understanding of Plasma

Interestingly, although plasma is the most common form of matter within the universe, it was the last state to be identified. In 1879, Sir William Crookes, a British Scientist, conducted experiments with extremely low-pressure gases, observing a glow located near the cathode – an occurrence now understood to be a manifestation of plasma. It was not until 1928 that the term “plasma” was used by Irving Langmuir to refer to this ionized gas. He borrowed the name from the term used in medicine because of the way charged particles in the substance reminded him of how blood plasma carries red and white blood cells.

Over the years, more understanding of plasma has been built, diving deeper into the differences between “cold” and “hot” plasma, the properties of plasma, and how it can be harnessed in technology.

Applications of Plasma

Plasma’s unique properties have found vast applicability in various fields. In industry, plasma is used in plasma cutters to cut through materials. They work by sending a pressurized gas through a small channel with an introduced electric arc, forming a plasma torch capable of slicing metals.

In medicine, cold plasma technology has been used for sterilization and disinfection due to its anti-bacterial properties. Additionally, ongoing research on cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) brings hope that it could be used in cancer treatment due to its known ability to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy ones unharmed.

In everyday life, plasma has found a place in our homes in the form of neon signs and plasma screen televisions. These devices work by using plasma’s ability to light up when an electrical current is passed through it.

Plasma in Space

In space science, plasma is of great significance. The sun and stars are magnificent spheres of glowing plasma. Even the auroras we see on Earth, the Northern and Southern Lights, are plasma phenomena caused by charged particles interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field and then colliding with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Moreover, space itself is teeming with plasma. Although invisible to the naked eye, these interstellar and intergalactic “plasma clouds” are detectable and provide valuable insights into celestial events, formations, and phenomena.


  • Plasma is the most common state of matter in the universe, making up over 99% of the visible matter
  • Though the term ‘plasma’ was introduced by Langmuir in 1928, the phenomena associated with plasma were observed much earlier, dating back to 1879 by Crookes
  • Applications of Plasma can be seen in various fields – from industry and medicine to home appliances and space science
  • Cold atmospheric plasma (CAP), a type of plasma at low temperature, is being researched for potential use in cancer treatment
  • Image Description

    The image accompanying this article depicts the mesmerizing beauty of a plasma globe. The purple and blue tendrils of plasma can be seen emanating from the center and branching out towards the globe’s walls. These captivating displays of color, light, and motion serve both as an example of plasma’s unique properties and as a visual metaphor for its importance and prevalence in our universe.