fusion plasma magnetism

Activity 3:  Make plasma!

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Plasma is the fourth state of matter. You will be very familiar with the first three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas (e.g. ice, water and steam).

To move to a higher state requires energy, so to turn a solid into a liquid or a liquid into a gas we heat it, and this gives the particles more energy – they move around more quickly.

But if we have a gas and the particles are already moving around really fast, giving the particles more energy does something special – it strips them apart. This is called ionisation.

Plasmas are also very beautiful because, as free electrons recombine with ions, the atoms emit light.

In this activity you will be making plasma in a microwave. You will need adult supervision, a microwave oven and some grapes.
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Plasmas only exist when a gas gets enough extra energy for electrons to be stripped away from the atom. A plasma is a highly energetic charged gas. Fusion plasmas must be extremely hot if the charged particles within are to overcome the repulsion they feel for each other and collide and fuse.

Fusion scientists must find a way of keeping this super-hot gas trapped. They use strong magnetic fields to make a trap for plasma. The next activity will consider magnetism, which is essential for making a good plasma trap.

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