Plasmas underlie numerous important technological applications and devices as well as our understanding of much of the universe around us.
They provide the foundation and underpinnings for present applications such as plasma processing of semiconductors, sterilization of some medical products, lamps, lasers, diamond coated films, high power microwave sources, and pulsed power switches. They also provide the foundation for important potential applications such as the generation of electrical energy from fusion and pollution control and removal of hazardous chemicals.
Plasma science encompasses a variety of science disciplines ranging from plasma physics to aspects of chemistry, atomic and molecular physics, and material science. Its broad, interdisciplinary nature also characterizes its plasma physics component, which includes ionized gases that range from weakly ionized to highly ionized, from collisional to collisionless, and from cold to hot. These terms characterize various plasmas ranging from relatively high-pressure gases with a small fraction of the atoms ionized and relatively low charged-particle temperatures — for example, plasmas used in computer-chip processing and light sources — to those in very low density gases with a large fraction of the gas atoms ionized and very high-temperature charged particles — for example, fusion plasmas.
Different types of plasmas underlie different applications and different natural phenomena. However, many fundamental considerations span the broad parameter ranges that characterize the many natural and man-made plasmas that are important in our lives.
The diversity of what is included in “plasma science” makes the subject difficult to characterize. However, it is that same diversity that makes it such an important contributor to a wide range of applications and technological developments. Below is a list of just some of the many technological applications of plasmas:
Industrial/Commercial Applications of Plasmas
|• Surface Processing||• Field-emitter arrays|
|• Nonequilibrium (low pressure)||• Plasma displays|
|• Thermal (high pressure)|
|Volume Processing:||• Water purification|
|• Flue gas treatment||• Plant growth|
|• Metal recovery|
|• Waste treatment||Switches:|
|• Electric power|
|Chemical Synthesis:||• Pulsed power|
|• Plasma spraying|
|• Diamond film deposition||Energy Converters:|
|• Ceramic powders||• MHD converters|
|• Thermionic energy converters|
|• High intensity discharge lamps||Medicine:|
|• Low pressure lamps||• Surface treatment|
|• Specialty sources||• Instrument sterilization|
|Surface Treatment:||Isotope Separation|
|• Ion implantation|
|• Hardening||Beam Sources|
One company’s product may be another company’s process. The specific applications of some classes of plasmas are too numerous to list, e.g., Lasers, Lamps
Some applications are listed as the plasma device itself; others are listed as one level beyond that, i.e., as the applications of the plasma device.