What is Plasma and Plasma Treatment?

Wondering what plasma and plasma treatment is? In this blog, Tantec, manufacturers of plasma and corona surface treatment systems, explain what plasma and plasma treatment is in a nutshell.

Until the 1950s, matter was thought to exist in only three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. But that all changed when a Danish engineer discovered plasma, which leads nicely onto the next question… What exactly is plasma? Keep reading as Tantec reveals all.

What is Plasma and Plasma Treatment?

Plasma is matter that exists in the form of ions and electrons. Basically, it is a gas that’s been electrified charged with freely moving electrons in both the negative and positive states.

The situation is actually a result of further energy being given to a gas, which causes the breaking free of negatively charged electrons from the nucleus.

On a deeper level, plasma can be described as a gas that’s been partially ionized. It is a mixture of neutral atoms, atomic ions, electrons, molecular ions, and molecules present in excited and ground states. The charges (positive and negative) balance each other; therefore, many of these charges are electrically neutral.

The charged particles present in plasma are responsible for its high electrical conductivity. Since plasma consists of electrons, molecules or neutral gas atoms, positive ions, UV light along with excited gas molecules and atoms, it carries a good amount of internal energy. And when all these molecules, ions and atoms come together and interact with a particular surface, plasma treatment is initiated.

Hence, by selecting a gas mixture, pressure, power, etc., the effects of plasma treatment upon any surface can also be specified or precisely tuned.

How Plasma Treatment is performed

Plasma treatment is usually performed in a chamber or enclosure that’s evacuated (vacuum plasma). The air within the chamber or enclosure is pumped out prior to letting gas in.

The gas then flows in the enclosure at a low pressure. This is done before any energy (electrical power) is applied. It is imperative to know that plasma treatment performed at low temperatures can easily process heat-sensitive materials.

These types of plasma are sometimes referred to as ‘cold plasma.’ Plasma treatment is mainly used for cleaning, surface activation, deposition, and etching – if you are interested in knowing more about plasma etching (plasma etch), why not read Tantec’s article about it all. While you’re there, be sure to take a read of Tantec’s feature on plasma cleaning and what it is used for here.

Useful for pretreatment of surfaces

On an industrial level, plasma treatments are used for treating surfaces of various materials prior to any coating, printing, or adhesion. Therefore, it can also be referred to as a kind of pretreatment of surfaces. Treatment with plasma removes any foreign contaminants present on a material’s surface, making it more suitable for further processing. Materials like plastics are prone to lose any type of printing or coating done on their surfaces because of their glossy texture unless treated.

Plastics are made up of polypropylene and are homopolar, which means that they do not easily bond.

Applying plasma treatment on such surfaces can result in an effective pretreatment of surface activation before any gluing, printing, or lacquering could take place. Similarly, materials like ceramics and glass can also be treated with plasma. Usually, industrial oxygen is used in plasma treatment as a process gas, hence receiving the title of oxygen plasma.

However, atmospheric air is also used in many plasma surface treatments referred to as atmospheric plasma. Depending on the type of material that is being treated with plasma, effects can remain prominent for just a few minutes or even months.

Watch the video below, which shows what plasma treatment looks like from the inside of a vacuum chamber.

Curious about plasma treatment technology? Use the contact information below to request a quote or ask a question.

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