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Collaborative Success Stories: Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire

Open-air plasma device could revolutionize energy generation.

Most of us have learned that matter has three states: solid, liquid and gas. But life on earth depends on a fourth state: plasma. Just as lightning and fire—both forms of plasma—emit energy in the form of heat, plasma produced by fusion reactions within the sun warms the earth. Scientists can create plasma in a vacuum tube, but producing it in the open air has been considered the “Holy Grail” of physics.

MU scientist Randy Curry and his team have developed a device that launches a ring of plasma in the open air. The plasma reaches a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun, but incredibly, it is completely safe in proximity to humans—emitting no radiation.This discovery could revolutionize energy production.

Curry worked with engineers and physicists to develop the device. The current version is a prototype, but Curry believes it could be enlarged to handle large amounts of energy. Just as fire transformed life for our ancestors, open air plasma has the potential to transform energy production today.

Dr. Randy Curry is the Logan Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Missouri as well as director of MU’s Center for Physical and Power Electronics.

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Related Initiative(s):
Sustainable Energy