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The Question

(Submitted October 07, 1997)

What is plasma (the fourth state of matter) used for? Where can it be found on Earth? What would the texture be?

The Answer

Plasmas are common and have many uses. The flame of a fire is a plasma, and you know what the uses of fire are, and you know what its 'texture' is like. The mass in the Sun and most other stars is in the form of plasma. There are instruments, called inductively-coupled plasma spectrometers, which inject a sample into a plasma and can determine the sample's chemical composition at the level of parts per billion.

Andy Ptak
for the Ask an Astrophysicist

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