Three of the traditional states of matter are well-known that are liquid, gas and solid, but the fourth fundamental state is less well-known, which seems absurd given that it is the most common in the universe. Of course, it is plasma, a state of matter unlike any other… Now let’s understand what is plasma state of matter and what are its properties?
What is plasma state of matter?
Plasma is superheated matter that has ripped the electrons from the atoms, resulting in an ionized gas. Over 99 percent of the visible universe is made up of it. Plasma glows in the night sky as stars, nebulas, and even auroras that occasionally ripple above the north and south poles. The neon signs that line our city streets, like the branch of lightning that splits the sky, are plasma. Our sun, the star that allows us to live on this planet, is also a star.
Along with solid, liquid, and gas, plasma is also referred to as the “fourth state of matter.” When you heat a gas, it turns into plasma, which is a soup of positive ions and electrons.
Plasma’s behavior and properties are of great interest to scientists from a variety of fields because it makes up so much of the universe. Importantly, all matter is in the form of plasma at the temperatures needed for functional fusion energy. Plasma’s properties as a charged gas have been used to confine it with magnetic fields and heat it to temperatures higher than the center of the sun.
Fourth state of matter: Plasma
How is plasma formed?
Plasma is a state of matter that is primarily made up of ions and electrons. When an atom or molecule gains or loses electrons, it forms an ion, which has a charge. Plasmas are made up of atoms that have some or all of their electrons stripped away, allowing positively charged nuclei, known as ions, to roam freely. Heating a neutral gas or exposing it to a powerful electromagnetic field may be used to create plasma. The plasma can also be formed by breaking any molecular bonds with a magnetic field through a device such as a laser, resulting in a dense cloud of charged particles (positive ions, electrons, or negative ions). The record for the hottest plasma produced on Earth is 6 trillion degrees Celsius! It’s a lot hotter than the Sun’s core temperature, which is just 5 million degrees Celsius.
Properties of plasma matter
- Plasma responds strongly to magnetic and electric fields when charged ions are present.
- Since plasma has no fixed volume and instead assumes the volume of the container, its behavior is most comparable to that of a gas.
- Despite the fact that all of the constituent particles are charged, the plasma usually has no overall charge.
- Non-neutral plasmas can have an overall charge (positive or negative) and can be made up of pure electron, ion, positron or antiproton plasmas.
- Usually plasma is considered same as gases but the two states behave very differently. Plasmas are less dense than solids or liquids and have no set form similar to gases. They can drift and flow freely; if enclosed, plasmas can expand to fill the container.
- Plasma is the most natural state of matter in the universe, and it makes up the sun and stars.
- Plasma is electrically conductive due to the presence of free charged particles.
- Many modern technological devices, such as plasma televisions and plasma etching, rely on plasma’s response to electromagnetic fields.
- A thermal plasma, such as that found in stars, is one in which the electrons and ions are at the same temperature as their surroundings. In an otherwise “cold” atmosphere, non-thermal plasmas are pockets of energetic, charged particles. Artificial plasmas, for example, are used in the food service industry to sterilize fresh produce. A jet of plasma destroys bacteria in this process, and since only a small amount of plasma is needed, its atoms mix with room-temperature air and cool quickly.
Researchers are working on plasmas for computer chips, rocket propulsion, environmental cleanup, biological hazard destruction, wound healing, and other exciting applications.