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Benefits at Home

High efficiency lighting; manufacturing of semiconductors for home computers, TVs and electronics; flat-panel displays; and surface treatment of synthetic cloth for dye adhesion.

Business Applications

Plasma enhanced chemistry; surface cleaning; processing of plastics; gas treatment; spraying of materials; chemical analysis; high-efficiency lighting; semiconductor production for computers, TVs and electronics; and sterilization of medical tools.

plasma arc lamps for business
plasma arc lamps

Plasmas in Transportation

Plasma spraying of surface coatings for temperature and wear resistance, treatment of engine exhaust compounds, and ion thrusters for space flight.

plasma sprayer
Robotically controlled plasma spraying of high-temperature shielding tiles

Plasma spraying of high-temperature resistance surface coatings for a diesel engine turbocharger housing
plasma thruster
engine exhaust cleaning
Microwave generated plasma around a catalyst for removal of NOx and CO from engine exhausts

Plasma Thrusters for Spacecraft
- test of electrostatic ion thruster
in large vacuum chamber (NASA)

aerodynamic drag test         Modification of Aerodynamic Drag
A flat panel with a layer of one-atmosphere plasma undergoing wind tunnel testing. This technology may lead to improvements in aircraft flight range and landing on short runways University of Tennessee

Plasma Lighting
The most prevalent man-made plasmas on our planet are the plasmas in lamps. There are primarily two types of plasma-based light sources, fluorescent lamps and high-intensity arc lamps. Fluorescent lamps find widespread use in homes, industry and commercial settings.

plasma arc lamp
Courtesy of OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, MA

fluorescent lamp
Courtesy of OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, MA

Inside every fluorescent lamp there lurks a plasma. It is the plasma that converts electrical power to a form that causes the lamp's phosphor coating to produce the light we see. The phosphor is the white coating on the lamp wall. A fluorescent lamp is shown here with part of the phosphor coating removed to reveal the blue plasma glow inside.

High-intensity sources are widely used in industrial and commercial settings as well as for outdoor and security lighting near homes and public areas. It is high-intensity arc lamps that give you the spectacular panoramic views of cities as you fly over them at night.

In high-intensity arc lamps the light we see is generally produced directly by the plasma. Color characteristics are controlled by the chemical elements put into the plasma rather than by a phosphor coating on the wall.

Plasma-based light sources are in fact observable from outer space. Indeed, it may be characteristics of the light from those lamps that tell an alien civilization of our presence.

alphanumeric readout
Plasma discharge
alphanumeric readout

The plasma generates ultraviolet light which in turn excites the phosphor coating inside the glass envelope. The phosphor emits a single color of visible light. Each pixel consists of three sub-pixels, one each of red, green and blue. By combining these primary colors at varying intensities, all colors can be formed.

Plasma Display Technology

Plasma displays generally consist of two glass plates, each containing parallel electrodes, sealed to form an envelope filled with a neon and xenon gas mixture. A gas discharge plasma is created by applying an electric field between the electrodes.

readout schematic

isotope separator

Isotope Separation

Plasma sources and magnetic field control of gyrating charged plasma particles are important for the separation of stable isotopes for medical and industrial use.

Plasmas for Sterilization

New one-atmosphere plasma systems make possible new methods for surface cleaning and sterilization for food, medical, and other applications. Whereas standard heat sterilization is time consuming and irradiation can damage materials, this new plasma technology has been shown to kill bacteria on various surfaces in seconds to minutes. In addition to destroying bacteria, such plasma systems also destroy viruses, fungi and spores. These systems also provide an environmentally benign method for pre-treating surfaces. One-atmosphere plasma systems are now becoming available for various industrial applications.

All but first graphic and two lighting items prepared by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.