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A new way to capture students’ attention

November 27, 2013

Plasmas are being used to capture students’ attention at Shawnee State University.


“Our work is on direct-current plasmas and how they can be used as educational tools in undergraduate curriculum,” Jerry Ross, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics at SSU said. “The most readily available plasma device is a simple fluorescent light bulb.”


The fluorescent light bulb can be used to investigate plasma ionization by varying the direct current. Electricity and magnetism can be demonstrated and manipulated with magnets.


Ross, along with co-authors Stephanie Wissel, Andrew Zwicker, and Sophia Gershman, sent an article on plasmas to the “American Journal of Physics” and not only was his article accepted for publication, they used his photo of the project prototype for the front cover of an issue this fall.


They described a device based on a DC glow discharge tube allowing several experiments with various topics, such as electrical breakdown, spectroscopy, magnetism and electron temperature.


According to the article, “Plasmas have a beguiling way of getting students interested in physics. We argue that plasmas can and should be incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum as both demonstrations and advanced investigations of electromagnetism and quantum effects.”


“Right now, it will take 30 years to build one of the devices,” Ross said. “But, fusion will power us one day.”