Plasma device could revolutionize energy generation and storage (w/ video)

Apr 16, 2013

University of Missouri engineer Randy Curry and his team have developed a method of creating and controlling plasma that could revolutionize American energy generation and storage. Besides liquid, gas and solid, matter has a fourth state, known as plasma. Fire and lightning are familiar forms of plasma. Life on Earth depends on the energy emitted by plasma produced during fusion reactions within the sun. However, Curry warns that without federal funding of basic research, America will lose the race to develop new plasma energy technologies. The basic research program was originally funded by the Office of Naval Research, but continued research has been funded by MU.

Curry's device launches a ring of plasma as far as two feet. The plasma doesn't emit , and it is completely safe for humans to be in the same room with it, although the plasma reaches a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun. The secret to Curry's success was developing a way to make the plasma form its own self-, which holds it together while it travels through the air.

"Launching plasma in open air is the 'Holy Grail' in the field of physics," said Curry, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the University of Missouri's College of Engineering. "Creating plasma in a vacuum tube surrounded by powerful electromagnets is no big deal; dozens of labs can do that. Our innovation allows the plasma to hold itself together while it travels through regular air without any need for containment."

The plasma device at MU could be enlarged to handle much larger amounts of energy, according to Curry. With sufficient funding, they could develop a system within three to five years that would also be considerably smaller. He noted that they used old technologies to build the current prototype of the plasma-generating machine. Using newer, miniaturized parts, he suggests they could shrink the device to the size of a bread box.

"We have a world-class team at MU's Center for Physical & Power Electronics, but that team will evaporate without funding," Curry said. "Department of Defense funding for basic research led to our innovation. The sequester's funding cuts threaten America's ability to compete in the future of energy technology. Not only will research not be advanced, a new generation of Americans won't be trained to take the reins of American engineering leadership."

Curry is the Logan Distinguished Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Director of the Center for Physical & Power Electronics.

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User comments : 23

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Whydening Gyre
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 16, 2013
Ball lightning.
it's a sales pitch...
cyberCMDR
not rated yet Apr 16, 2013
Stargate staff weapon!
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (5) Apr 16, 2013
Stargate staff weapon!


I was immediately thinking of military applications. Plasma weapons and shields are generally considered the holy grail of military technology.

Obviously, civilians should not have access to this technology.
ValeriaT
2.7 / 5 (7) Apr 16, 2013
to make the plasma form its own self-magnetic field, which holds it together while it travels through the air
What I can see at the video are just normal vortex rings made of ionized air - no sign of magnetic stabilization can be seen there.
StarGazer2011
1 / 5 (2) Apr 16, 2013
yep weaponize it. What about a standing wave plasma shield for missile defence?
Wadadlichick
5 / 5 (1) Apr 16, 2013
Didn't "Blacklight power", a company based in Princeton, NJ start this about 18 years ago???? They got as far as teaming up with Daimier for a car plasma fuel cell, and then I never heard of them again....
SDrapak
5 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2013
Gene Roddenberry beat them by decades :)
axemaster
5 / 5 (3) Apr 17, 2013
This sounds vaguely like a scam. I can't see how you would store a useful amount of energy in a plasma - plasmas are typically extremely low density. Also, I'm not sure I believe the "perfectly safe" part either - I suspect it emits plenty of ultraviolet radiation, which can easily burn your retinas if you're dumb enough to look at it without shielding.

EDIT: Yeah after watching the video I'm even more skeptical...
Sean_W
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 17, 2013
Rather than storing energy, this seems to be a great way to disperse energy as heat and light but less quickly than just ionizing the air and letting it go. It may be a great advance with lots of applications (or not) but energy storage seems the least likely of them.
sennekuyl
5 / 5 (2) Apr 17, 2013
Hundreds of degrees K? Someone is throwing jargon around.
s-l-y
3 / 5 (2) Apr 17, 2013
I don't understand, could you please give any application example of what could be done with a such device?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Apr 17, 2013
This sounds vaguely like a scam.

Agreed.
Especially with statements like these:
"Launching plasma in open air is the 'Holy Grail' in the field of physics,"

I've heard all kinds of things touted as the 'holy grail of physics' (mostly in the context of unifying gravity with the other forces) - but self sustaining plasma rings hasn't been one of them to date.

I also have a bit of a problem with the heading.
Plasma device could revolutionize energy generation and storage

How exactly does this revolutionize energy generation and storage? Anyone have an idea? (Unless it's mentioned in the video, which I can't access for some reason)
gwrede
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 17, 2013
Wow! Either these guys are deceiving themselves, or they are deceiving us. Were they Italians, I'd be sure of the latter. But being American, I think they are devout Creationists.

Making a regular smoke ring gets no different whether the stuff is hot or cold or even plasma. You can even make smoke rings simply by dropping ink in a glass of water. (They'd be called ink rings.)

I think Curry is desperate enough to try some "innocent stretching of the truth" here.

"We have a world-class team at MU's Center for Physical & Power Electronics, but that team will evaporate without funding," Curry said.
If this is what the team believes in, then I suggest they evaporate.

Oh, and a final word to any university in Missouri: Let's just leave Serious Physics to universities on the East and West coast, OK?
xeb
1 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2013
"A multi-millisecond duration, exploding wire air plasma with electron density of at least 1014 /cm3 has been developed and is presented in this study. Confining the radial expansion of an exploding wire discharge has resulted in interesting magnetohydrodynamic effects, producing a toroidal air plasma, or TAP." (Investigation of a toroidal air plasma under atmospheric conditions, 07.2012)
Q-Star
2.8 / 5 (6) Apr 17, 2013
Hundreds of degrees K? Someone is throwing jargon around.


A pet peeve of mine. Not so much the throwing around jargon. Throwing incorrect jargon regardless of who is throwing it. It's more than a pet peeve when it comes from "the Logan Distinguished Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Director of the Center for Physical & Power Electronics".

It's "HUNDREDS OF KELVINS". (Or better yet: "a not so interestingly high or low temperature".)
nkalanaga
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 17, 2013
For comparison, 300 Kelvins is a comfortable temperature for humans. So "hundreds of Kelvins" may not be that hot at all...
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2013
HOT GAS!
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2013
Wadadlichicknot rated yet Apr 16, 2013
Didn't "Blacklight power", a company based in Princeton, NJ start this about 18 years ago???? They got as far as teaming up with Daimier for a car plasma fuel cell, and then I never heard of them again....
Perhaps because you didn't look? They are claiming great progress with their validated hydrino process. Try GOOGLE.
barakn
3 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2013
"Validated hydrino process?" Who validated it - Mr. Ed?
barakn
3 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2013
The University of Missouri, the institution that employed the neutron-Sun crank and incestuous pedophile Oliver K Manuel for several decades.
thenamesd
not rated yet Apr 22, 2013
"What I can see at the video are just normal vortex rings made of ionized air - no sign of magnetic stabilization can be seen there."

Yes a Vortex ring, and what do charged particles create as they move through space? A magnetic field. Especially when the charged particles are also rotating on an axis which is perpendicular to the tangent at the edge of the vortex ring. This is the magnetic self stabilization.

Evidence of this can be see by looking at the B&W sequence, you can see plasma ions moving through the center of the vortex along the center axis of the vortex . Plus the plasma ball starts out fairly large and the ring spontaneously formed. Other than being very Hot, Plasma tends to dissipate very quickly because well, they are all same charge naturally repelling it self. This coherent ring formation is evidence of magnetic stabilization.. or im just making stuff up... im cool with either opinion
axemaster
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2013
Other than being very Hot, Plasma tends to dissipate very quickly because well, they are all same charge naturally repelling it self.

Untrue. Plasmas are nearly always electrically neutral.
Neinsense99
3.3 / 5 (7) May 27, 2013
Stargate staff weapon!


I was immediately thinking of military applications. Plasma weapons and shields are generally considered the holy grail of military technology.

Obviously, civilians should not have access to this technology.


Somebody has been watching too much space opera, where ships have infinite power supplies, never have to deal with cooling and battle is at point blank range like it was still the age of sail.