Plasma, which is a state of matter, is currently getting a lot of attention from the scientific community worldwide as it holds great promise for the future energy needs. Plasmas could be used to achieve controlled thermonuclear fusions, which if harnessed would provide us with an unlimited amount of clean energy.
The relativistic effect of plasmas can be used for driven-lasers which are very energy efficient these can also be used as laser based radiation for cancer therapy as plasmas do not harm healthy cells but are capable of destroying bacterial and cancer cells as suggested by latest studies.
Other uses of plasma include use in fabrication, textiles and for food hygiene. Plasma is also used for propulsion of rockets in space.
Plasmas can be seen in our day to day lives in the form of lightning bolts and extremely hot flames. Neon signs contain plasma inside, the glow of fluorescent bulbs is also due to plasmas and they are used for making semiconductors as well as plasma television sets.
Plasmas are very different from gases with neutral atoms as they consist of ions and electrons and have waves and oscillations due to electrical forces and mobility of electrons.
Ordinary gases with such behavior are considered sound waves as they have no connection with the electromagnetic waves.
Due to non-thermal particles in space as sources of high energy emission, turbulence in the magnetic-dominated pair plasmas produces relativistic effects. Relativistic plasmas can be created due to heating of gases at high temperatures or by high energy particle beams.
Some electron accelerations can be made by making the electrons do transverse betatron oscillations in self-generated static electric and magnetic fields. When betatron frequencies match with a laser frequency by relativistic electrons, resonance occurs, leading to energy exchanges between laser and electrons. Some of the major applications of the relativistic effects of plasma is in Wakefield accelerations.
Normal particle accelerators work at a radio frequency of the accelerated electrons due to the electric fields at very high energies. The radio frequency electric field can break down and produce a large amount of heat which can melt the accelerator, thus for getting more power from an radio frequency accelerator, a longer beam line is needed which can be costly.
However this is not the case with a plasma Wakefield machine, it can produce a high amount of energy with a smaller beam line. This kind of system uses lasers to create a charge ‘Wake’ in a plasma. Hence, these kinds of technologies are being developed at CERN and other particle accelerators for producing more energy and understanding the nature of particles.
(Aditya Banerjee is a physics undergraduate student at Amity University, Noida. Aditya who has an inquisitive mind wishes to unravel the mysteries of the physical world by devoting himself to research especially in Quantum field theory. Views expressed are personal)