Perspective on Plasmas portion of header
 BASICS      Overview  |   What are Plasmas?   |   Powers of 10   |    Photo Gallery
                                            
States of Matter*
Primary Natural Systems
Plasmas in Torus
Spherical Torus at Culham, UK
solids condensed matter, compact (nuclear)
liquids, neutral gas fluid (Navier-Stokes)** systems
plasmas electromagnetic (Maxwell-Boltzmann)** systems
*There are only four dominant naturally-occurring states of matter although many other states of matter exist when considered broadly (see A. Barton, States of Matter, States of Mind, IOP Press, 1997).

View of Sun in X-rays
X-rays fromYohkoh
ISAS, NASA

**The Navier-Stokes equations are basic equations for studies of fluids and neutral gas systems. The Maxwell equations for electromagnetism and the plasma Boltzmann equation are the basic equations for studies of electromagnetic systems of which plasmas are a prime example
- see references.
multiscale plasma graphic   Plasmas are conductive assemblies of charged particles, neutrals and fields that exhibit collective effects. Further, plasmas carry electrical currents and generate magnetic fields. Plasmas are the most common form of matter, comprising more than 99% of the visible universe, and permeate the solar system, interstellar and intergalactic environments.

Plasmas are radically multiscale in two senses
(1) most plasma systems involve electro-dynamic coupling across micro-, meso- and macroscale and (2) plasma systems occur over most of the physically possible ranges in space, energy and density scales.
The figure here illustrates where many plasma systems occur in terms of typical densities and temperatures.
 

However, the full range of possible plasma density, energy(temperature) and spatial scales go far beyond this illustration. For example, some space plasmas have been measured to be lower in density than 10 to the power -10 per cubic meter or (10exp-10)/m3 - 13 orders of magnitude less than the scale shown in the figure! On the other extreme, quark-gluon plasmas (although mediated via the strong force field versus the electromagnetic field) are extremely dense nuclear states of matter. For temperature (or energy), some plasma crystal states produced in the laboratory have temperatures close to absolute zero. In contrast, space plasmas have been measured with thermal temperatures above 10+9 degrees Kelvin and cosmic rays (a type of plasma with very large gyroradii) are observed at energies well above those produced in any man-made accelerator laboratory. Considering Powers of 10 is useful for grasping the unique way in which plasmas are radically multi-scale in space, energy and density.

Comprehensive listing of sites featuring educational resources - In particular, the
Coalition for Plasma Science
provides a teacher's guide and educational publications.

brochure cover   
  Essay by James Glanz from a brochure of the
  American Physical Society,
Division of Plasma Physics
  


Because plasmas are conductive and respond to electric and magnetic fields and can be efficient sources of radiation, they can be used in innumerable applications where such control is needed or when special sources of energy or radiation are required.

The topics page provides close to 200 subject areas in plasma science and technology and nearly 100 applications!

Major topical areas of plasma science and technology
Plasma Equilibria, dynamic and static Wave and Beam Interactions in Plasmas
Naturally-occurring plasmas Numerical Plasmas and Simulations
Plasma Sources Plasma Theory
Plasma-based Devices Plasma Diagnostics
Plasma Sheath Industrial Plasmas

Alan Watts of Environmental Surface Technologies in Atlanta, Georgia has suggested the following grid for organizing industrial plasmas with reference to the major "revolutions," energy type and technology. 

Revolution Energy Technologies
Industrial
Mechanical Energy
Engines, Metallurgy
Chemical
Chemical Reactions
Waste handling, Catalysts
Electrical
Electromagnetic
Transformers, Switches
Nuclear
Nuclear Reactions
Reactors, Isotopes
Electronic
Solid-state
Electronics, Semiconductors
Optical
Photon Interactions
Lighting Sources, Lasers

When considered inclusively, it is clear that plasma science and technology encompasses immense diversity, pervasiveness and potential. Diversity through numerous topical areas; pervasiveness by covering the full range of energy, density, time and spatial scales; and potential through innumerable current and future applications. Thus the theme of our exhibition.

exhibit title

go to top of page This primary natural systems table above is a "unit" for purposes of legal permission.

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