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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss plasma. First observed in 1879, plasma is the most abundant matter in the universe, far more than solid, liquid or gas.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss plasma, the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid and gas. As over ninety-nine percent of all observable matter in the Universe is plasma, planets like ours, with so little plasma and so much solid, liquid and gas, appear all the more remarkable. On the grand scale, plasma is what the Sun is made from and, when we look into the night sky, almost everything we can see with the naked eye is made of plasma. On the smallest scale, here on Earth, scientists make plasma to etch the microchips on which we rely for so much. Plasma is in the fluorescent light bulbs above our heads and, in laboratories around the world, it is the subject of tests to create, one day, an inexhaustible and clean source of energy from nuclear fusion.


Justin Wark
Professor of Physics and Fellow of Trinity College at the University of Oxford

Kate Lancaster
Research Fellow for Innovation and Impact at the York Plasma Institute at the University of York


Bill Graham
Professor of Physics at Queens University, Belfast

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 13 Oct 2016 21:30


Justin Wark at the University of Oxford

Kate Lancaster at the University of York

Bill Graham at Queen's University Belfast

The Extreme World of Ultra Intense Lasers with Kate Lancaster – Royal Institution

Coalition for Plasma Science

Low pressure plasma experiment – The OpenScience Laboratory

York Plasma Institute  

Central Laser Facility

Perspectives on Plasmas – The Fourth State of Matter

National Ignition Facility and Photon Science

Fusion Energy Education

Remote Glow Discharge Experiment – controlling a plasma with your own computer

Plasma – Wikipedia



Stefano Atzeni and Jurgen Meyer-ter-Vehn, The Physics of Inertial Fusion: Beam Plasma Interaction, Hydrodynamics, Hot Dense Matter (Oxford University Press, 2009)

K. H. Becker, U. Kogelshatz, K. H. Shoenbach and R. J. Barker, Non-equilibrium Air Plasmas at Atmospheric Pressure (IOP Publishing Ltd, 2005)

Francis F. Chen, Introduction to Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion: Volume 1: Plasma Physics (Springer, 2016)

S. Eliezer and Y. Eliezer, The Fourth State of Matter: An Introduction to Plasma Science (Taylor & Francis, 2001)

William Kruer, The Physics of Laser Plasma Interactions (Westview Press, 2003)

Michael A. Lieberman and Alan J. Lichtenberg, Principles of Plasma Discharges and Materials Processing (John Wiley & Sons, 2005)

David Salzmann, Atomic Physics in Hot Plasmas (Oxford University Press, 1998)

Melanie Windridge, Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights (William Collins, 2017)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Justin Wark
Interviewed Guest Kate Lancaster
Interviewed Guest Bill Graham
Producer Simon Tillotson


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