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    The Problem of Gas Purity in Plasma Physics and Technology

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    This paper deals with some of the effects of minor constituents in what is sometimes called the fourth state of matter, the gaseous plasma. By a gaseous plasma is meant an assembly of electrons, ions, and atoms or molecules, electrically neutral as a whole and of sufficient density, temperature, and size that a charged particle does not move freely but experiences the electromagnetic fields of all the other charges. This definition of a plasma can be clad in a mathematical formula (1)3 but this is not necessary for the present discussion. The lightning stroke, the fluorescent lamp, the welding arc, the exhaust of a jet, the ionosphere, the aurora borealis, the Van Allen radiation belts, the sun and stars and, indeed, most of the universe are examples of plasmas familiar to most. Somewhat more exotic but less known are the plasmas in a thermonuclear fusion reactor, the magnetohydrodynamic generator, the plasma propulsion engine, and the plasma energy convertor. These will become familiar if and when the scientists and the engineers will learn to understand the many unknowns of the gaseous plasma and will make these devices operational. Some of these unknowns have to do with the effects of minor constituents or, in the language of plasma physics, with the effects of plasma impurities.

    Author Information:

    Buchsbaum, S. J.
    Member of Technical Staff, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., Murray Hill, N. J.

    Sawyer, G. A.
    research supported by the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission, University of California, Los Alamos, N. Mex.

    Committee/Subcommittee: E01.21

    DOI: 10.1520/STP45073S