In numerous sci-fi films, people often use plasma weapons, weapons that shoot clusters of ionized high-temperature plasma. However, plasma, which is one of the most mysterious states of matter, exists on Earth only during short-term discharges of lightning, inside neon signs, plasma television panels and numerous scientific installations. And only recently a group of scientists from the California Institute of Technology was able to obtain stable plasma rings in the open air. Moreover, this was done quite simply, with the help of a thin jet of water under high pressure and a plate made of special crystalline material.
Usually, plasma is created by heating matter to such a high temperature that electrons are detached from atoms, and matter is converted into “soup” from ions and free electrons. Such a plasma is called high-temperature plasma and it is precisely its scientists who are trying to obtain and stabilize in the chambers of thermonuclear reactors. There is also a cold plasma, which is obtained by ionizing the gas under the influence of an electric field. It is this plasma that is found in the tubes of neon signs and, due to its creation, cosmic-ion engines operate.
Plasma, which was obtained in the open air by scientists from California, belongs to a new third type. The splitting of water molecules into atoms and ionization of atoms is due to the high kinetic energy of the water jet movement and the interaction of molecules with the atoms of the crystal lattice of the plate. Unlike other attempts to create plasma clots in the atmosphere, which existed no more than 10 milliseconds, the “water” plasma rings can exist as long as desired until a water jet, which is a source of energy, is beaten into the crystal plate.
The jet of water that hits the plate has a diameter of 85 microns. The pressure of 9 thousand psi (about 630 atmospheres) accelerates the jet of water to a speed of 305 meters per second. Scientists compare this to a stream of water, the thickness of a human hair moving at the speed of a flying bullet.
“Some of our colleagues claimed that creating a stable plasma in the open air is impossible,” says Francisco Pereira, one of the researchers, “But we managed to create a stable plasma ring and support it as much as we need. This, we do not need in a vacuum, or in a magnetic field, or anything else. ”
It is still difficult to say how a new method for creating a plasma can be used in practice. Nevertheless, scientists believe, this method can be very useful for conducting research in the field of plasma physics, and in practice its use is seen in the field of accumulation and storage of energy.