Plasma Technology

Learn more about the science and technology of plasma surface treatment and surface energy

Plasma Treatment Explained in Simple Terms

What is Plasma Treatment?

Plasma treatments are used to alter the surface properties of a wide range of materials to make them easier to bond, glue and paint. By treating parts we both clean and activate the surface, improving their adhesion characteristics.

It’s useful to start by defining what a plasma is. Solid, liquid and gas are the three states of matter we are all familiar with. We can move between the states by adding or removing energy (e.g. heating/cooling). If we continue to add enough energy, gas molecules will become ionised (lose one or more electrons) and so carry a net positive charge. If enough molecules are ionised to affect the overall electrical characteristics of the gas the result is called a plasma. Plasmas are, therefore, quite rightly, often referred to as the fourth state of matter.

A scientific illustration of how plasma treatment works and how a plasma is created

A plasma contains positive ions, electrons, neutral gas atoms or molecules, UV light and also excited gas atoms and molecules, which can carry a large amount of internal energy (plasmas glow because light is emitted as these excited neutral particles relax to a lower energy state). All of these components can interact with the surface during plasma treatment. By choosing the gas mixture, power, pressure etc. we can quite precisely tune, or specify, the effects of the plasma treatment.


How the plasma treatment process works

Plasma treatment can be performed in an evacuated enclosure or chamber. The air is pumped out and gas is allowed to flow in at low pressure before the energy in the form of electrical power is applied. It’s important to note that the plasma treatment is actually a low-temperature process, meaning that heat-sensitive materials can be processed quite readily.

A scientific illustration of the steps in the plasma treatment process

WHY NOT REQUEST ONE OF OUR FREE INFORMATIONAL POSTERS ‘WHAT IS PLASMA TREATMENT?’
OUR IN-DEPTH GUIDE TO PLASMA PROCESSES AND HOW IT COULD HELP YOU.


COMMON EVERYDAY PLASMAS INCLUDE:
  • Fluorescent lights
  • ‘Neon’ signs, and
  • Plasma televisions of course
COMMON INDUSTRIAL USES, MATERIALS & APPLICATIONS OF PLASMA TREATMENT INCLUDE:

Industries:

Materials most commonly plasma-treated

Common results of plasma treatment


Plasma Treatment Effects

Plasmas are a ‘soup’ of energetic, highly reactive species that are able to interact with any surface which they contact. By choosing the right configuration and processing parameters we can produce specific effects upon the surface. Plasma Treatments can be categorised as Plasma Cleaning, Plasma Surface Activation, Plasma Coatings and Plasma Etching.

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    Simon Baxter - BAE Systems, MAI

    BAE
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    Dr Ravi Desai - Making Lab, Francis Crick Institute

    Francis Crick Institute
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    Dr Panagiotis Manesiotis BSc MRSC - Queen’s University Belfast

    Queens Uni Belfast
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    Tom Doak - Trak Microwave

    Queens Uni Belfast
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    Karthik Nair - University of Bradford

    University of Bradford
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    Warwick University
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Henniker Plasma 3 Berkeley Court, Manor Park, Runcorn, WA7 1TQ, UK

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