why is plasma considered the fourth state of matter
I read that plasma is the fourth state of matter. In the same book, it stated that plasma was (basically) shattered particles, using fire as an example. Is this true? A plasma, as defined by physicists, is a gas-like state of matter in which all (or many) of the
electrons have been stripped from the nuclei they orbit. Atoms are not otherwise bound to each other as in a crystal or a metal. The negatively charged electrons and the positively charged nuclei (ions) co-exist and intermingle but do not, on the average, recombine to form stable, neutral atoms. Actually, recombination of electrons and nuclei occurs continuously, which process is accompanied by the emission of light.
This is why a plasma, such as occurs within a neon tube, or a flame, gives off a characteristic light. But, due to thermal energy (flame) or continued electrical excitation (neon tube), recombined electrons/ions are quickly knocked apart again, maintaining the average state of a mixture of free electrons and ions. So, yes, the book is correct. A plasma consists, in effect, of 'shattered particles,' with 'shattered' meaning that the atoms are maintained, on the average, in an ionized condition, with the stripped electrons and resulting ions intermingling in a glowing, gas-like state.
Answered by: Warren Davis, Ph. D. , President, Davis Associates, Inc. , Newton, MA USA Shalom and Yaffa Eliezer write in their book, The Fourth State of Matter, An Introduction to Plasma Science "Over 15 billion years ago our Universe was squeezed into an extremely small ball, that was unstable and exploded violently. This was the most gigantic explosion of all time. This description of the early Universe is known today as the вBig Bangв model. [. ]" "The matter which composed the Universe was so hot that everything was in the form of plasma.
Thus, in the very beginning, plasma was the first state of matter. The fragments of this explosion became the stars of our Universe, including our own Sun. During the expansion of our Universe, the matter cooled down and thus some of the plasma changed into gas, which further cooled down and became transformed into the liquid and eventually the solid states. This is the reverse of the sequence of events which will be discussed in Chapter 2 on generating plasma as the fourth state of matter. " (emboldening added) Radu Balescu writes in his book, Aspects of Anomalous Transport in Plasmas,: "Plasma is often called the "fourth state of matter", assuming that solid, liquid and gas are, respectively the first, second and third state.
If however, the criterion of classification is changed, plasma should be called the "first state of matter", given that more than 99% of matter in the universe is in the plasma state. This trivial remark underlies the importance of plasma physics. "
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