Plasma, The Most common Phase of Matter in the Universe

We used to think there were 3 distinct phases of matter; solids, liquids and gases but then a new state came along known as, plasma, the most common phase of matter in the universe. It makes up 99% of what we see in our universe which makes it surprising that it was only very recently discovered.

It Wasn’t Discovered Until the Late 19th Century

Before the 19th Century, in 1879, the first observations of plasma were recorded by Sir William Crookes when he managed to successfully ionise gas contained inside glass. He named the substance he had discovered ‘radiant matter’ but not much more was done on the subject until 1928 when Irvine Langmuir began to investigate it and termed it ‘plasma’.

How To Make Plasma

Plasma is a gas-like substance that is made up of charged particles, ions and electrons. It is created by ionising gas which happen when electrons are knocked off particles that make up a gas. to known electrons off an atom, a lot of extra energy is needed to affect the particles. This energy source can come from heat or a very strong electric current, it doesn’t really matter as long as there is enough energy then electrons will be excited and zoom away from their particles,┬áleaving the substance we now know to be plasma.

It’s so Powerful it Can’t be the Same as a Gas

Even though it can begin as a gas, once plasma has been created it takes on tonnes of special extra properties like conducting electricity. Lightning is the best most powerful example of plasma on earth, being super conductive and potentially super destructive. In addition to this, plasma is very susceptible to manipulation by magnetic fields, another property not held by gas.

Since the discovery of plasma, scientists have been recognising its properties more and more, leading them to come to the conclusion that most of the empty space in our universe is in fact plasma, making it the most common phase of matter in our universe.