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Plasma State of Matter

Let’s take the example of water. We already discussed three states of water. When ice is heated above 0C, it melts and becomes a liquid: water. When water is heated above 100 C, it is transformed into a gas: steam. If we keep raising the temperature of the steam, the atoms are stripped of their charged particles called electrons and plasma is formed. The 4th state of matter is plasma or ionized gases which can exist only at very high temperatures, where free particles consist of charged, usually in equal numbers, such as ions and electrons.
Just like gaseous state, plasma is a state of matter does not have a definite shape or volume. Some examples of a plasma matter include the charged air produced by lightning and a star such as our own sun. On earth, plasma naturally occurs in flames, lightning and the auroras. Plasma matter has a very low density, like; solar wind which averages only 10 particles per cubic-centimetre. Since plasma state exists at a very high temperature, atom loses electrons in this state and all electrons move free to move. In the other word plasma state is essentially bare nuclei swimming in a sea of electrons. Let’s discuss some other properties of the plasma state. 

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What is Plasma State of Matter?

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Plasma is a state of matter in which all matter is ionized and it occurs in the form of ions and electrons. Since, we know that for the ionization of the element or matter to occur energy is required to pull the electron from the attraction of the nuclear charge, high energy is required.

So for the ionic state to exist in nature, a very high level of energy is required. The normal temperature range in which a plasma can exist is around 6000K. But such a high temperature does not exist in the natural condition. So the plasma state does not occur naturally on earth.

Is Plasma a State of Matter?

Yes, plasma is a state of matter and the plasma state explains how the molecules or atoms behave at a very high temperature. Thus, including the common states of matter, there are five states of matter.

Plasma State of Matter Definition

The definition of the plasma state of matter can be given as the existence of matter at a very high temperature as ions and there exists no interaction between the ions and the electrons present. High temperature is required for the existence of the gases as ions or any matter as ions. 

Plasma State of Matter Properties 

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The ions and electrons react to electromagnetic forces, while the dusty plasma particles get affected not only by the electromagnetic forces but also by the normal gravitational forces.

There is a coupling effect to the surrounding plasma through electromagnetic field by either self-induction or by pre-existing ones. The coupling effect increases with the decrease in dust particles.

Plasma the Fourth State of Matter

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Plasma is considered as the fourth state of matter, after the gases, solids and liquids. Plasma state is not ordinarily found in natural state on earth, but outside the earth and in the stars, it is the most commonly found state. 

Solids, liquids and gases are considered as low energy particles which are present in the earth's crust whereas plasma is considered to be a higher energy particle, which normally exists outside the earth. But on earth the plasma state can be produced under controlled conditions at high temperatures.

Sometimes lightening, which is a natural phenomenon, has enough energy to ionize certain particles in air, so that, they exist as plasma for some time. Inductively coupled plasma is one instrument which uses the plasma technology to detect the presence of certain ions or elements.

  • The ionized state of gas due to very high temperature results in electrically charged gaseous particles and is strongly influenced by electromagnetic phenomenon.
  • This is in sharp contrast to a neutral gas.
  • At terrestrial temperatures and shielding by the various neutral gas levels in the atmosphere, the creation and sustaining of plasma state might look difficult but is not in reality.
  • The usage of fluorescent lights that we use everyday actually works on plasma theory only and requires plasma when operating.
    Plasma
Dusty Plasma

As dust grains are more often than not immersed in surrounding plasma and radiating environment, they are electrically charged by various processes like capture of ions and electrons.

Dusty plasma is a rather ambiguous term used for the mixture of charged dust grains with the electrons and ions that we find in normal plasma matter that surrounds us.

State of Matter Plasma

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States of matter are the physical state in which the matter can exist. There are five states of matter, namely gaseous state, liquid state, solid state, plasma and the Bose-Einstein condensate. At room temperature, we can find only three states of matter viz., gaseous state, liquid state and solid state. There are some characteristic features of each state of matter. Let us first look at the gaseous state.

Gaseous Plasma


In the gaseous state, the molecules are far apart; that is the intermolecular forces of attraction will be minimum. So since the attraction is minimum, the molecules of gases would be far apart and hence they are free to move. Gases move around constantly and they take up the volume of the container. There is no definite shape for gases and hence they take up the shape of the container. Gases are fluids, they can flow from a higher concentration region to the lower concentration region. The movement of the gases is sometimes called as diffusion. The rate of diffusion depends on the molar mass of the compound.

Liquid Plasma


Liquids have intermolecular forces of attraction which are a little higher compared to that of the gases and hence the intermolecular space is less compared to that of the gases.

A liquid does not take up the full volume of the container. But liquids take up the shape of the container. In liquids although the intermolecular forces of attraction are little high, it does not prevent the movement of the molecules. And hence liquids are fluids that can flow.

The liquid molecules are held together by weak intermolecular forces of attraction, like dipole-dipole interaction, induced dipole-induced dipole interaction, dispersion forces or London forces and hydrogen bonding. The viscosity of fluids depends on the intermolecular forces of attraction; when the intermolecular forces of attraction are very high, then the liquid molecules have more attraction and they flow very slow.

Solid Plasma


Solids have very high intermolecular forces of attraction, and they have very low intermolecular spaces. The attractions between the constituent particles are the greatest of all three phases. Solids are not fluids; since the intermolecular forces of attraction is the highest, the constituent particles are fixed in a position and they do not move. The allowed movement is only the vibration movement. Solids have their own shape and they do not take the shape of the container.

There are two types of solids, crystalline solids and amorphous solids. Crystalline solids have defined geometry and order of arrangement, whereas amorphous solids does not have proper geometry or arrangement. Amorphous solids are formed when there is not enough time for the crystallization to take place and they are called super cooled liquid.

Plasma as a State of Matter

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Plasma is considered as the fourth state of matter along with gases, liquids and solids. Plasma is sometimes considered as the ionized gases. In physics and chemistry the plasma is considered as the portion of the gas which is ionized. The ionization of the substance can be done by many modes, not only by heating but also by applying strong electric field coupled with laser or microwave region.

Like gases, plasma does not have definite shape or volume, they take up the volume and the shape of the container. It can be considered that plasma state is gaseous state at high temperature and so it has some of the properties of gases.

Example of Plasma State of Matter

Plasma matter does not exist at normal temperature because to ionize the gas high temperature is required. So plasma state of matter is normally found at high temperature. In the stars, the matter is present as plasma. Due to the high temperature in the stars the particles in the stars dissociate and form ions.

In the sun also, the gases Hydrogen, Helium is present as plasma. Plasma matter is highly conductive in nature, because of the ions present in them.
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