Plasma is defined as: a collection of charged particles containing about an equal number of positive ions and electrons and exhibiting some properties of a gas but differing from a gas in being a good conductor of electricity and being affected by a magnetic field. Plasma is generated by ionizing a gas, either by heating it to high temperatures or by passing high energy electrons through it. Electrons are ripped from the tight hold of the nucleus and roam freely amidst the chaos of other vibrating atoms. These free electrons allow the plasma to conduct an electric current. As electrons vibrate in this plasma they are continually departing from and returning to the nest of the atom. They take the energy from the applied voltage to leave and must give up that energy as heat and light at discrete frequencies to return.
Examples of plasma in Nature are the Aurora Borealis, which occurs when protons and electrons are shot from the sun, usually during sun spot activity. These particles strike the earth’s upper atmosphere at a height of approximately 70 miles while the earth’s magnetic field directs the particles toward the earth’s magnetic poles. As the particles move, they collide with atmospheric molecules of oxygen and nitrogen and change their electrical charge. In our daily lives, plasma is most like fire, which is a plasma-generated by heat reacting with gases found in the atmosphere, particularly oxygen. The Sun and the stars shine with plasma light and lightning is an electrical discharge generating plasma light.
Some everyday light sources such as fluorescent tubes and bulbs along with Mercury and Sodium vapor lamps use plasma.
The character and color of the plasma glow depends on the gases used,
the voltage and frequency applied, along with the pressure of the gas, as well as even the size and geometry of the vessel it is in.
Gases commonly used in plasma sculptures and neon art are generally obtained by liquefaction of air separated from the other gases by fractional distillation.
These gases are found in the air we breathe.
They are: Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon, Neon, Helium, Krypton, Xenon
Other vapors and gases are also used including:
Mercury, Iodine, Sulfur Hexafluoride
By Korey Kline & Ed Kirshner
From time to time technological advancements present possibilities beyond the strictly utilitarian. Some artists recognize the potential to manipulate these technologies to express their imaginative visions and to create a new medium. Plasma sculpture is such an art form.
Plasma is the fourth state of matter. Solids, liquids, gases and plasma make up most of the known matter in the universe.