Which Device Involves the Use of Plasma in Technology?

September 11, 2023
David Sunnyside

Plasma is the fourth state of matter, after solids, liquids and gases. When subjected to enough heat or electric field, atoms can lose their electrons, becoming ions and attaining an opposite electrical charge to their nuclei. As a result, ions can conduct electric currents with greater ease than normal gaseous matter. When a gas becomes fully ionized, it is known as plasma, and can produce a sustained stream of electrical energy. Lightning and neon signs are examples of this state, as well as the glowing trail of the Space Shuttle Atlantis as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere after its flight.

Fusion power, the dream of harnessing the same process that powers our Sun to provide clean, abundant and virtually limitless energy, requires that these soupy mixtures of ions and electrons be held at the precise density, temperature and duration for atomic nuclei to fuse together and release energy. To do so, researchers use a doughnut-shaped device called a tokamak and carefully aligned magnets. But, as the article explains, the process has been difficult to reproduce.

Now, lead author Yurii Victorovich Kovtun, who was forced to evacuate his Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology during the Russia-Ukraine war, has collaborated with colleagues at Kyoto University and the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics to find a way to create plasmas that are fusion-suitable by blasting them with microwave power without the need for magnetic alignment. The technique could simplify the efforts to realize fusion as a future energy source.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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