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How does plasma form in Tesla Coils?
- John Yu (age 17)
Lancaster, PA, Lancaster
You probably already know that the difference between plasma and
ordinary air is that plasma contains many charged particles- ions and
electrons- and not just electrically neutral molecules. Very large
electric fields can simply rip apart molecules, pulling the negatively
charged electrons one way and the positively charged nuclei the other
way. However, if I understand right, Tesla coils do not need such large
fields. So long as there are a few charged particles in the air to
begin with, the electric fields from the Tesla coils will accelerate
them to high speeds. When they bump into neutral molecules, the impact
can ionize the neutral molecule. A chain reaction of these events gives
Fluorescent lights are another familiar device that uses a
plasma. You've probably noticed how they often have trouble getting
started. That's because they need enough ions to get the ionization
process going, requiring special starter circuits.
Adam and Mike W
(republished on 08/02/06)
Follow-up on this answer.