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Thread: Helium vs Air Plasma

  1. #1 Helium vs Air Plasma 
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    After a science fair experiment we have measured the similarities and differences of plasma created by air and helium. Our methodology is as follows.
    Methodology A(air):
    1. Light a match and place it on a small raised surface inside a microwave
    2. Cover the match with a glass bowl/beaker, leaving a slight gap so air can ventilate the match.
    3. Close the microwave door and turn it on for 15-20 seconds
    4. Place electromagnet directly outside the microwave door
    microwave door

    Methodology B(helium):
    1. Light a match and place it on a small raised surface inside a microwave
    2. Fill a glass bowl/beaker with Helium, upside down so it doesn’t escape (because helium is lighter than air).
    3. Cover the match with the bowl/beaker, leaving a slight gap so air can ventilate the match.
    4. Close the microwave door and turn it on for 15-20 seconds
    5. Place electromagnet directly outside the microwave door


    The helium reacted differently in the following ways: The helium plasma only took 2 seconds to ionize, whereas the air plasma took 3. Also the colour was slightly different in the two experiments. Perhaps the biggest difference was how when the electromagnet was introduced the air plasma took the shape of a small ball near the top of the beaker, while the helium plasma shook violently and eventually turned into an ionized flame. I was wondering why this happened and the science behind it.
    Thanks in advance; Harry


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