Photo credit: UCLA Physics Department

You’ve probably seen plasma in-action before via a plasma globe, but for those wondering what other uses there are for this state of matter, similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized, check out these five ultra cool experiments. Continue reading to see more.

3. Plasma Ball Illusion

First off, don’t attempt this plasma ball trick at home, unless you’re a professional like YouTube user “falcovolt”. If you’re at work and unable to view videos, he basically uses a paper clip to concentrate the plasma globe’s electricity on a business card.

2. Microwave Plasma

Making plasma at home isn’t as hard as you may think. All you need is: a glass jar, three soda bottle caps, toothpicks, lighter, cork, and a microwave. For those who don’t have ample experience in a science lab, please consult a responsible adult before attempting this experiment.

3. Plasma-Powered Rocket

In this awe-inspiring video, you’ll see “plasma test shots from the VASIMR VX-100 prototype plasma rocket housed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The video is slowed down to 1/2 speed.” These types of thrusters reportedly “have the ability to operate continuously for months.”

2. Plasma Bulb

We have seen the future of light bulbs, and it’s plasma, or so we hope. The “plasma light bulb which puts out nearly 10 times as much light, uses half the power of a traditional light bulb and can reach temperatures that are equivalent of the surface of the sun.”

1. Crazy Speaker

While not the liquid/gas/solid states of plasma, this speaker uses the non-solid ‘fourth state of matter’ by creating compression waves in the air. Hopefully, there will be portable versions of this technology in the near future and/or a surround sound setup.

Bonus Video – Microwave + Grape = Plasma

Instructions:

  1. Please see to it that you are willing to pay $200 for a new microwave before you try this, and that you have a fire extinguisher nearby. If you are under age 18, please seek the supervision of a parent or guardian. I accept no responsibility should this experiment cause damage or injury. How to make a glowing ball of plasma in your microwave with a grape.
  2. Take a damp paper towel and place it on top of 5-10 other paper towels in the bottom of your microwave. On top of it, place a sheet of themally sensitive fax paper, the kind that old crappy fax machines use. Credit card recipts also work, but they’d be harder to tile the bottom of your microwave with. The extra towels at the bottom provide some insulation. Turn the microwave on for a while. The first areas on the paper to turn dark are the hot spots.
  3. Cut a grape in half equatorially (assume that the stem goes through the pole). Then place the new cut surface against a paper towel or other paper product to dry it. Don’t squeeze it to death, but try to try it as much as possible. Lay the grape half with the wet side up, and slice it in half top to bottom, leaving a small (~3-7 mm) bridge of skin between the halves. Dry the new surfaces.
  4. Place the grape with the cut ends up like two adjacent bowls on a plate or saucer of some sort and place the grape in your microwave’s hotspot. Turn on the microwave for 15 seconds.
  5. Normally to keep the grape in the hotspot you should remove the turntable, but if you aren’t getting a show, try putting the turntable back in and letting the grape explore the microwave by being turned around all over it. Really make sure that the ends are dry, as if they’re wet they tend to short-circuit across the ends and you don’t get electrical discharging.

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