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Cable Technology Feature Article

April 02, 2013

Five Industries Using Plasma

By Drew Hendricks

We hear the word “plasma” quite often throughout day-to-day life, but there’s a lot that most people don't know about it. Plasma screen TVs are advertised, bought and sold, and we hear about the importance of blood plasma donation.

But what exactly is plasma, where is it found, and how is it used in various industries? People would probably be surprised to realize just how important plasma is in everyday life.

What Exactly is Plasma?

In physics, plasma is a state of matter, just like solids, liquids and gasses. We see it in plasma screen displays in TVs and light bulbs, but there are many more places to find plasma than what we commonly know. Although people don't always think of plasma as a state of matter, it is by far the more abundant state of matter in the universe. Stars, including our own sun, are made up of plasma, and we’ve found that much of interstellar and intergalactic is filled with it.

Plasma makes up lightning and black holes, and is responsible for St. Elmo's Fire. When sparks appear from static electricity – that’s plasma. It's incredible how often plasma shows up, and yet we typically don't put much thought into its existence.

There are also many uses of plasma here on earth that aren't commonly recognized. In medicine, plasma refers to the component in blood which makes it a liquid. Blood plasma makes up more than half of the body’s blood, and is made of more than 90 percent water, carrying blood cells and platelets throughout the body.

It's important to realize the difference between plasma in a medical sense, and how plasma is used in industrial settings.

Uses of Plasma in Industry

Among many industries, the word “plasma” is likely to come up when talking about plasma cutting. This machine acts as a torch and uses a high-voltage spark to iodize the air through the torch head and turning it to plasma. With this, it's possible to cut through thick and thin pieces of metal with great accuracy. This process came out of wielding practices in the 1960s and quickly became preferred to metal on metal cutting and oxy-fuel cutting, because it can cut with more precision and less debris.

Now, plasma cutters can be bought for industrial or commercial use, much like a saw or torch.

Plasma torches are now commonly used whenever metal needs to be cut. The roofing on a building, a wing of an airplane, and even small metal studs – all of these metal items were probably cut with plasma. There are many places where plasma cutting is used and many jobs that rely on the cutter itself or the products it is responsible.

Some of these places where a plasma cutter is used are in metal fabrication, building and construction sites, home improvement, equipment repairs, and metal sculpting and art.

Safety Risks

A plasma cutter is an expensive tool that needs to be handled with care. Like with any heavy machinery, especially one that works at temperatures as high as 25,000°C, the person using the tool needs to be trained how to use it correctly. Before using a plasma cutter on the workplace or at home, someone should know how it works, and wear appropriate protective items like gloves and goggles to prevent injury.

Once someone knows how to use a plasma cutter, it's a very simple and effective tool.

Click here to learn more about the uses of plasma cutting, and how it’s used among many industries.

Edited by Braden Becker

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