Plasmas produce many different forms of energy including heat, light and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) such as radio waves and X-rays. These EM effects can be controlled by altering the power supply, method of excitation, plasma geometry and composition and gas flow rates. Plasma science is a highly multidisciplinary area of research, with applications in materials science, biotechnology and medicine. The success of LTP technology in commercial products often depends on the ability to control the various physical effects.
Among the most well-known examples of commercial technology that commonly uses plasmas are fluorescent lamps, flat panel displays and space exploration. Plasma technologies have made significant contributions to reducing the environmental and economic costs of lighting and display systems.
For example, the plasma-based electric propulsion thrusters used to keep communications satellites in their desired orbits are an established technology that has been adapted for use on deep space missions. The gridded ion thruster system used by NASA on its Dawn mission to visit an asteroid and the ESA's BepiColombo mission to reach Mercury have both utilized plasma propulsion.
The first large flat panel display televisions were plasma-based, and they continue to hold a significant market share today against competing technologies such as liquid crystal displays (LCD). Plasma display technology relies on small cells filled with a mixture of gases that respond to an applied voltage. When the cell is activated, electrons strike mercury particles in the cell and cause them to shed photons of a particular color. Changing the voltage applied to the cell causes the displayed image to shift.