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8 p rescr i bed f o c u s a re a
Current issues, research and development in science

Other states of matter?

In the past, scientists believed that these plasmas. Lightning bolts a positive charge. The removed
everything around us was either actually form plasma from the electrons are free to move about.
a solid, a liquid or a gas. But surrounding air.
scientists now believe that there are In an ordinary gas, each atom Energy knocks
other states of matter that are not contains an equal number of electrons off
very common on Earth. protons and electrons. (We will atoms.
The earliest of these additional learn more about the particles that
states of matter to be identified make up the atom in chapter 11.) –

is called plasma. It is currently This makes each atom neutral. The
estimated that more than 99 per positively charged protons are – –
cent of all matter in the universe surrounded by an equal number of ++
– ++ Nucleus
is actually plasma. Plasma occurs negatively charged electrons. A gas
everywhere. The sun and all the becomes plasma when energy or Neutrons
other stars are made of plasma, as heat is added. This energy or heat
is lightning and the aurora australis causes the atoms to release all or –
(also known as the southern some of the electrons. This means Incoming energy removes electrons from
lights). Temperatures higher than that the remaining atoms now have gas atoms, changing them into a plasma
1 000 000 °C are needed to form fewer electrons and the atoms have state.

Lightning turns gases in the air into plasma at temperatures higher than 1 000 000 °C.

54 Core Science | Stage 4 Complete course

Plasmas have different properties from gases. For
example, oxygen gas is not affected by magnetic fields
and cannot conduct electricity. However, if oxygen
gas is turned into plasma, it can be contained in a
magnetic field and can conduct electricity.
Different atoms form different types of plasma.
Each type of plasma can be used for different
purposes, such as in neon lights and fluorescent tubes.
Plasmas are also used in lasers, high-powered
microwaves, water purification and some
semiconductors in computers.

Fusion technology
comes to Earth! Plasmas are used in lasers.

Test drive the new plasma-powered car.

Scientists are currently studying
With speeds of up to 5000 km/h
how plasmas could be used to
it is a ride to die for! release energy from sea water
without creating pollution. A
possible solution is, firstly, to use
sea water to make hydrogen gas.
The atoms of hydrogen gas could
then be joined together (fused), a
process that releases large amounts
of energy. However, this fusion
occurs at such high temperatures
that there is currently no container
on Earth that could hold the plasma
without being destroyed. The good
news though is that, because plasma
is affected by magnetic fields, a
See your local plasma dealer today! special magnetic container may be
able to hold the plasma.

Activities Think
6 Distinguish between the properties of a plasma and those
of a gas.
7 Draw a diagram using particles to demonstrate what
1 Recall an example of naturally occurring plasma. happens if a substance changes from a solid to a liquid
2 Atoms in solids, liquids and gases are neutral. Explain to a gas to a plasma.
what this means. 8 Explain why scientists think that plasma would be a good
3 What happens to the atoms in a gas to make them into energy source in the future.
plasma? Explain this in terms of protons and electrons.
4 Describe a current use of plasma. Investigate

5 Recall some examples of how plasma may be used in the 9 Investigate how a neon light works. Present your findings
future. as an advertisement to sell a new neon light.

2  States of matter 55