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For other uses, see Plasma.

Plasma (from Greek πλάσμα, "anything formed") is one of the four fundamental states of matter, the others being solid, liquid, and gas. A plasma has properties unlike those of the other states.

A plasma can be created by heating a gas or subjecting it to a strong electromagnetic field applied with a laser or microwave generator. This decreases or increases the number of electrons, creating positive or negative charged particles called ions, and is accompanied by the dissociation of molecular bonds, if present.

The presence of a significant number of charge carriers makes plasma electrically conductive so that it responds strongly to electromagnetic fields. Like gas, plasma does not have a definite shape or a definite volume unless enclosed in a container. Unlike gas, under the influence of a magnetic field, it may form structures such as filaments, beams and double layers.

Plasma is the most abundant form of ordinary matter in the Universe, most of which is in the rarefied intergalactic regions, particularly the intracluster medium, and in stars, including the Sun. A common form of plasmas on Earth is seen in neon signs.

Much of the understanding of plasmas has come from the pursuit of controlled nuclear fusion and fusion power, for which plasma physics provides the scientific basis.


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