Plasma (physics) - Common Plasmas

Common Plasmas

Further information: Astrophysical plasma, Interstellar medium, and Intergalactic space

Plasmas are by far the most common phase of ordinary matter in the universe, both by mass and by volume. Our Sun, and all the stars are made of plasma, much of interstellar space is filled with a plasma, albeit a very sparse one, and intergalactic space too. In our solar system, interplanetary space is filled with the plasma of the Solar Wind that extends from the Sun out to the heliopause. Even black holes, which are not directly visible, are fuelled by accreting ionising matter (i.e. plasma), and they are associated with astrophysical jets of luminous ejected plasma, such as M87's jet that extends 5,000 light-years.

Dust and small grains within a plasma will also pick up a net negative charge, so that they in turn may act like a very heavy negative ion component of the plasma (see dusty plasmas).

The current consensus is that about 96% of the total energy density in the universe is not plasma or any other form of ordinary matter, but a combination of cold dark matter and dark energy. In our Solar System, however, the density of ordinary matter is much higher than average and much higher than that of either dark matter or dark energy. The planet Jupiter accounts for most of the non-plasma, only about 0.1% of the mass and 10−15% of the volume within the orbit of Pluto.

Common forms of plasma
Artificially produced Terrestrial plasmas Space and astrophysical plasmas
  • Those found in plasma displays, including TVs
  • Inside fluorescent lamps (low energy lighting), neon signs
  • Rocket exhaust and ion thrusters
  • The area in front of a spacecraft's heat shield during re-entry into the atmosphere
  • Inside a corona discharge ozone generator
  • Fusion energy research
  • The electric arc in an arc lamp, an arc welder or plasma torch
  • Plasma ball (sometimes called a plasma sphere or plasma globe)
  • Arcs produced by Tesla coils (resonant air core transformer or disruptor coil that produces arcs similar to lightning, but with alternating current rather than static electricity)
  • Plasmas used in semiconductor device fabrication including reactive-ion etching, sputtering, surface cleaning and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition
  • Laser-produced plasmas (LPP), found when high power lasers interact with materials.
  • Inductively coupled plasmas (ICP), formed typically in argon gas for optical emission spectroscopy or mass spectrometry
  • Magnetically induced plasmas (MIP), typically produced using microwaves as a resonant coupling method
  • Static electric sparks
  • Lightning
  • St. Elmo's fire
  • Upper-atmospheric lightning (e.g. Blue jets, Blue starters, Gigantic jets, ELVES)
  • Sprites
  • The ionosphere
  • The plasmasphere
  • The polar aurorae
  • Some flames
  • The polar wind, a plasma fountain
  • The Sun and other stars
    (plasmas heated by nuclear fusion)
  • The solar wind
  • The interplanetary medium
    (space between planets)
  • The interstellar medium
    (space between star systems)
  • The Intergalactic medium
    (space between galaxies)
  • The Io-Jupiter flux tube
  • Accretion discs
  • Interstellar nebulae
  • Cometary ion tail

Read more about this topic:  Plasma (physics)

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