Plasma: The Fourth State Of Matter

In science we are taught that there are three states of matter. This definition is incomplete and outdated because it ignores Plasma.

In science class we generally are taught that there are three states of matter; Solid, Liquid, and Gas. This definition is not only incomplete and outdated but it ignores the most abundant state of matter in the universe, Plasma.

Plasma is the stuff of stars, and it holds the key to unlimited, safe, and renewable energy. This paper will describe what plasma is and why it is important to the past, present, and the future.

As stated earlier plasma is the most abundant form of matter in the universe, it is the stuff of stars. A majority of the matter in inner-stellar space is plasma. All the stars that shine are all plasma. Plasma is a high energy electrically charged mixture of ions and electrons. While plasma is the most abundant phase of matter in the universe, on earth it only occurs in a few limited places. Plasma appears on earth only in places like lightning bolts, flames, auroras, and fluorescent lights.



Natural plasma exist only at very high temperatures, or low temperature vacuums. Artifical plasma can be created by using electrical charges on gas, this is seen in neon signs. Plasma at low temperatures is hard to maintain because outside a vacuum low temperature plasma reacts rapidly with any molecules it encounters. This is what makes this material, both very useful and hard to use!

Natural plasmas on the other hand do not breakdown or react rapidly, but are extremely hot (over 20,000 degrees celsius minimum)and their energy is so high that they vaporize any material they touch.

Currently scientists are working on putting plasma to effective use. Ideally, to be useful, plasma would have to be low energy and somehow survive without instantly reacting and degenerating. The approach currently being advanced to solve the plasma problem is the application of magnetic fields. The magnetic fields create low energy plasma that creates molecules that are in what scientist call a metastable state. The magnetic fields used to create the low temperature plasma give the plasma molecules electrons which do not react until they collide with another molecule with just the right energy. This enables these metastable molecules to survive long enough to react with a designated molecule such as a particular chemical contaminate.

The fact that these metastable particles are selective in their reactivity, makes them a potentially unique solution to problems like radioactive contamination. Scientist are currently experimenting with mixtures of gases to work as metastable agents on plutonium and uranium, and this is just the beginning.

While plasma problem has not been solved entirely, it show a promise that can't be overlooked. As a clean-up agent plasma could work on anything from graffitti covered walls to radioactive waste. Yet that is not all, The sun, like all stars, is a massive plasma bind. The plasma of the Sun is a result of a nuclear fusion reaction that is controlled by gravity and magnetic fields. Plasma research may yeild the solution to controling nuclear fusion, but that is another story for another article.

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