Free Download of : Plasma Physics – Richard Fitzpatrick
What is Plasma?
The electromagnetic force is generally observed to create structure: e.g., stable atoms and molecules, crystalline solids. In fact, the most widely studied consequences of the electromagnetic force form the subject matter of Chemistry and Solid-State Physics, which are both disciplines developed to understand essentially static structures.
Structured systems have binding energies larger than the ambient thermal energy.
Placed in a sufficiently hot environment, they decompose: e.g., crystals melt, molecules disassociate. At temperatures near or exceeding atomic ionization energies, atoms similarly decompose into negatively charged electrons and positively charged ions. These charged particles are by no means free: in fact, they are strongly affected by each others’
electromagnetic fields. Nevertheless, because the charges are no longer bound, their assemblage becomes capable of collective motions of great vigor and complexity. Such an assemblage is termed a plasma.
Of course, bound systems can display extreme complexity of structure: e.g., a protein molecule. Complexity in a plasma is somewhat different, being expressed temporally as much as spatially. It is predominately characterized by the excitation of an enormous variety of collective dynamical modes.