RINGS OF FIRE: Physicists define plasma as a high-temperature, ionized gas containing an electrically neutral balance of positive and negative ions. Fire and lightning are familiar forms of plasma; our sun and the rest of the stars are fueled by the stuff. For decades scientists here on earth have sought to explore plasma’s energy-producing potential using fusion experiments, a process that typically involves heating plasma to tens of millions of degrees Celsius, confining it within powerful magnetic fields and creating fusion reactions designed to release copious blasts of energy. Randy Curry, professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU, is among those working to unleash plasma’s power. His latest contribution is the creation of a device that launches “rings” of plasma, each held together without the benefit of magnetically bound vacuum tubes, into the open air. The rings, depicted here in a video still, don’t emit radiation and are safe for humans to share a room with — this in spite of the plasma reaching a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun.
Image courtesy of Ajit Zambre