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OS:Homemade Plasma Using Microwave Oven
Page first featured December 20, 2008
An open source page for making plasma in a microwave oven -- something just about anyone can do from items kicking around the house. While there are potentially very serious dangers involved, with proper precautions the experiment can be relatively safe.
It's really cool to see the flame suddenly explode to 50x its size (into plasma), and float to the top of the jar, far above the flame source it was originally on. Note that after the plasma ball is formed at the top of the jar, the flame source can go out, and the plasma will continue as long as the microwave is on (and things are contained). In one case where the microwave was left on for about a minute, the plasma actually started melting the glass vase.
Plasma is the fourth state of matter, and is generally found in stars, though there are a wide range of companies employing plasma in various energy technologies, especially in the waste-to-energy sector. Bulgarian inventor, Kiril Chukanov, of Chukanov Quantum Energy LLC, has been pursuing commercial applications of this microwave plasma technology for nearly two decades. He claims to be close to having a viable primary generator.
This instruction page is for kicks and grins only. There is no practical application being sought in this particular set-up. It is merely a demonstration of a scientific phenomenon. Experiment at your own risk.
By the way, this isn't exotic physics. It's just cool.
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How to Make Plasma in Your Microwave
Possible to Destroy Microwave Oven
In ordinary use, the electric fields inside a microwave are too low to generate plasmas, which are made when electric fields tear apart molecules into electrically charged ions. However, if you violate the manufacturer’s instructions and run the oven with almost nothing in it to absorb energy, the microwave energy density and hence the electric fields build up far above the usual levels. In the process they may damage or destroy the microwave oven, so unless you’re rich, this is not a good experiment to try. (UIUC Dept. of Physics; 07/18/06)
Wear eye protection and shoes in case the jar shatters.
Use a microwave-proof glass or jar or bottle, preferable with a more rounded bottom (which is the top when turned up-side-down).
Wait for the jar too cool sufficiently before opening the door of the microwave.
Be sure to have a fire extinguisher handy. Make sure you can afford to lose your microwave if things get out of hand.
The burning emits an acrid smell. Be sure to stand back and don't breath in the fumes when opening the microwave door. Be sure you are in a well-ventelated area.
- Microwave needs to be fairly high-power.
- Apparently works better inside jars that have a more rounded bottom (top of aparatus in set-up in which jar is placed up-side-down).
- Higher-power Microwave
- Microwave-proof glass, or jar (acrylic is preferable), or bottle that has a more rounded bottom (top of aparatus in set-up in which jar is placed up-side-down).
- Flame source (Need something that will stay burning for about 5-10 seconds.)
- Small, short candle
- Matches (one used)
- a toothpick could be used.
- lightbulb (see some of the videos below)
- Match holder/base (something fairly small to hold the match upright, to prevent burning the bottom of the microwave)
- Small piece of wood with hole drilled in it
- 3 or 4 Spacers to hold jar up at least 1/2 inch; and which won't melt quickly in the microwave.
- Plastic bottle lids
- Fire extinguisher
- Have all components/pieces ready to go.
- Be sure you are in a well-ventelated area.
- Have fire extinguisher handy.
- Pre-arrange apparatus in microwave to make sure aparatus fits and can be put in place fairly quickly.
- Match holder in middle or close to the middle of the microwave base
- Jar spacers (to hold up the jar so air can enter through the bottom)
- Jar set on top of spacers
- Place match in holder
- Place match+holder in microwave
- Be sure to turn turntable off.
- Set timer for 20-40 seconds. (That should be more than enough time).
- Light match; be sure flame is burning well.
- Place jar over burning match, on top of spacers
- Close lid
- Press "start"
- After a few seconds, the flame on the match will turn into a bright plasma phenomenon.
- Be ready to turn microwave off to prevent the jar from breaking from too much heat.
- Wait for the jar too cool sufficiently before opening the door of the microwave.
Instructional Video by iFirebird
- Instructional: How to Make Plasma in a Microwave - Microwave Plasma. Skip to ≈ 3:50 for the actual plasma part. Preceding is the process for making it. (YouTube; July 16, 2007)
by dandaman514 April 15, 2007
- home made plasma - Fire in the microwave. (YouTube; April 15, 2007)
by dovetastic September 19, 2007
- Plasma bursting through a vase in the microwave - This plasma was yielded from a lightbulb that exploded and confined to the top of the glass vase while being microwaved. Apparently plasma gets so hot it melts right through glass and plasma is the same stuff the sun is made of. Remember, microwaving food is for morons. (YouTube; September 19, 2007)
- See also from this user: Microwaving a lightbulb inside a vase
- And this one: The biggest lightbulb explosion ever in the microwave - the heavy glass containment of the bulb holds the plasma at the top before the bulb shatters.
- And this one: Explosive Microwave LIghtbulb Trilogy - three bulbs fluoresce and go to plasma before shattering.
- And from another user: Microwaving a Full Ten Minutes of Light bulbs - notice the plasma floating up off the top of the exploded light bulbs, where it dissapates. The jar (not used in this case) apparently contains the plasma so it doesn't dissapate.
by woiow May 02, 2007
- Microwave Plasma 2 - (After sustaining the plasma for nearly 50 seconds) Here the Plasma Ball breaks the tempered glass bowl. (YouTube; May 02, 2007)
by XeonProductions April 17, 2007
- Microwave Plasma (DO NOT TRY AT HOME) - Using toothpicks, a simple flame, and a glass jar we created Plasma. (YouTube; April 17, 2007)
by woopzitwasme June 09, 2007
- Best Microwave Plasma Ball Ever!! - Ok, i got the best video of a microwave plasma ball i have yet seen. I used a paperclip, with a small amount of paper towell on top, all covered in a small glass on stilts, which allows the air from the gasses to excape the glass. Dont use the stilts, and the glass will explode. Believe me, thats what happened last time.[...] (YouTube; June 09, 2007)
by epalermo Oct. 24 2006
- Microwave Plasma Fun - "The night is calm and placid. That is, until it is ripped apart by the electric burning cacophony of ionized gas. And Cindy's screaming." (YouTube; September 19, 2007)
- What happens when you stick wood in a microwave with glass? - Shmikel19902006 - August 05, 2007 - Does't explain set-up. A little too much booze involved, no doubt.
Research and Development for Practical Applications
Chukanov Quantum Energy LLC
Bulgarian inventor, Kiril Chukanov, has been pursuing commercial applications of this technology for more than a dozen years. He claims to be close to having a viable primary generator. In his earlier work (e.g. ~2003-2006) in Salt Lake City, he used a microwave oven as the primary reaction chamber. His more recent work in Canada is more sophisticated.
He's written several books describing what he thinks is going on, and how this energy might be harvested as a primary driver for electricity generation. He also warns of its potential weaponization. It's not one of the more "safe" renewable solutions.
- Plasma from a flame in the Microwave - Q. I am doing a study on plasma, and i need some help. Me and a friend discovered that if a fire is lit in the microwave, and a dome is put around the fire, (like a glass mixing bowl), and the bottom is rasied off the ground, then after approx. 10 seconds, a blue flash is created and then a plasmoid appears at the top of the bowl, humming at about 120hz. I was wondering, how does this happen? (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Jul 18, 2006)
Quoting from the above article:
- A. This sounds like a fun experiment, if you don’t mind making a mess of your microwave oven. Please get permission before set fire to anything inside your house (this whole experiment sounds dangerous and we don’t want anyone or anything to get hurt), and please be extra extra careful when experimenting with the microwave oven.
- There is a safer version of this experiment that can be done with a grape sliced appropriately. Please see our answer here about grapes making plasma in the microwave.
- When something burns with a flame, electrons are torn from their atoms as the atoms rearrange to form new molecules. Usually they get re-captured by the molecules, and this is one of the reasons why flames glow -- the electrons emit light as they lose energy spiralling in from their paths free through the air to being caught in orbits in the new molecules.
- A microwave’s job is to set up a standing wave of electric and magnetic fields within a metal box. The electric fields alternately push and pull electrons left and right, or up and down. In a partially conducting material, the current that sloshes back and forth can heat up an object resistively. Even if the material does not conduct dc electricity at all, if it contains water molecules, their electric polarization directions flip back and forth with the field, making them jiggle and get hot.
- If electrons are floating around freely, even for a very short amount of time, they can be shoved far away from their point of origin by the electric field. And then shoved back. And then forwards again. As they move back and forth, they crash into air molecules in the oven, and can knock electrons in them to higher-energy orbits. Then these electrons fall back, emitting light. That’s why you have a glowing blob of plasma over your flame. This plasma is hotter than the rest of the air, and so it tends to rise up to the top of your bowl.
- I think they arrange the strength of the microwaves in ovens so that the back-and-forth motion of the electrons in a plasma that gets formed is not sufficient to knock other electrons free from the air molecules. If this were the case, even a small spark somewhere on a piece of food would eventually cause the whole oven to fill with plasma.
In the News
- Featured: DIY / Plasma / Microwave
How to Make Plasma in Your Microwave Oven - Perhaps you've seen a video or two at YouTube showing how to generate plasma with a small flame in a microwave oven. We've created a "how to" page, with a collection of some of these demos, scientific theories and studies, and related energy pursuits. (PESWiki; Dec. 20, 2008)
- Microwave plasma-assisted premixed flame combustion—[Applied ... - A compact microwave plasma/combustion torch has been operated at atmospheric pressure in both plasma-only and plasma-assisted premixed combustion modes. (KW Hemawan, CL Romel, S Zuo, IS Wichman, TA …; Applied Physics Letters, 2006)
- Diamond growth by microwave generated plasma flame - US Patent 5349154 - A swirl flow microwave plasma torch is provided for the growth of ... (US Patent Issued on September 20, 1994)
- Welcome to IEEE Xplore 2.0: Plasma-Assisted Combustion in a Re-Entrant Microwave Cavity - ... We describe an improved experimental microwave plasma-assisted ... of the improved microwave focus; to improve the microwave flame coupling ... (Hemawan, K.W. et al.; IEEE Xplore; Oct 15, 2007)
See Discussion page
- Plasma in a microwave oven - After a few seconds the flame bursts into a bright ball of plasma, why is this? ... Now what happens when the burning candle is placed in the microwave oven ... (Physics Forums; July 25, 2008)
- Directory:Plasma | PowerPedia:Plasma
- PowerPedia:Ball Lightning
- Directory:Microwave-Based Energy Technologies
- Directory:Magnetohydrodynamics:Plasma-Powered Flying Saucers
- Directory:Waste to Energy