We're made of star-stuff, and we made science to relight it. Great gleaming genius machines, built of bolts both metal and lightning to drive a phase change into the future. Plasma technology is to tomorrow as steampunk is to yesterday, in that both are fun, but the future one is better, more powerful, and much, much more useful. Plasmapunks wear goggles to study an incredibly bright future, not the comfortable brass-rimmed, rose-tinted lenses of those enjoying the past instead of progress. It's also the secret of the only 100 Percent Chemical-Free All-Natural Healthy Diet.
We've already seen some amazing plasma technologies -- little things like the future of free power, space engines, an x-ray source so powerful that it goes all they way up to Z, and the beginning of the Universe -- but the thing about the future is that there's always more of it. Here's some that we're building right now.
4Plasma Blasting Hazardous Waste
Humanity (eventually) learned that it can't just burn all its rubbish. Because burning is the worst thing you can do with hazardous biochemicals. You're energetically giving them a carton of cigarettes and airfare, helping them into the sky to spread their unpleasant poison around the world. But the problem isn't burning them -- it's not burning them hard or smart enough.
Pyrogenesis Canada Ltd
Advancing so fast we're burning past fire
Most waste materials are made of the same atoms as everything else; the only problem is their structure. Plasma gasification utterly destroys that structure. Even the most awful poisons are helpless when you rupture every one of their atomic bonds. Which is why plasma gasification is working on destroying chemical weapons. Forget smashing things into last week -- we're smashing them all the way back to early universe, throwing them through the periodic table to shatter them down to component elements, as physics finally wins that wrestling match against chemistry. By controlling how it cools, we can convert the waste into flammable syngas fuel and an inert slag which can be used as a building material.
To replace the one we smashed, have a 3D periodic table
The only thing plasma gasification can't deal with is elementary waste, like nuclear material or heavy metals. Because if you make a plutonium plasma, it's still plutonium, but now it's a plasma, and that would make Doctor Doom hide under his big green cape like it's a safety blanket.
It's a particularly smart way to dispose of poisonous waste. It's also a particularly smart way to dispose of most other waste. It's just smart all over. It costs energy to run, but fusion plasmas will give us that, and we'll be getting useful output instead of filling chunks of our extremely finite planet with garbage. As well as diverting waste from landfills, it has potential for landfill mining, going back over our old rubbish and dealing with it properly this time. We could literally destroy our past mistakes with a plasma torch. That's the kind of gloriously empowering Utopian fantasy even video games never thought of, and video games think plasma can fix everything.
"Eat BFG, incipient back problems!"
Aircraft carriers are installing Plasma Arc Waste Destruction Systems to target enemies of the entire planet. It's accelerating us into the future so fast it's going to turn trash into jet fuel. Plasma gasification's only downside is that it costs money to build the plants in the first place. Understand that every time anyone talks about being unable to deal with their waste. We are absolutely able to deal with all that waste. They just don't want to pay for it.
3Plasma Particle Accelerator Afterburner
Particle accelerators are how we get the mysteries of the universe to play chicken and win, smashing them straight into each other over and over until they give up their secrets. Most modern accelerators are immense rings of superconducting electromagnets. They look like a dragon decided to hoard intelligence instead of gold, and are even more valuable.
Dwarves wouldn't raid that. They'd worship it.
They're huge because they're limited by little things like the electrical breakdown of space. Crank up an electrical field too high, and it decides to short-circuit across a vacuum as a lightning bolt rather than run through your machine. One option is applying judo against Zeus by using this strength as our own. Instead of limiting the magnets because lightning bolts can shatter matter, we replace the magnets with the exact same process.
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Nice try. You work for us now.
Plasma accelerators punch a positive column into plasma by blasting every single electron out of the way. Since electrons are attracted to the positive particles left behind, they all immediately smash back into position. Think of a motorboat tearing through the water, leaving a wake, and the water flowing back into the furrow left by the boat. In the process, we create an electric field thousands of times higher than the breakdown limit. The flow of electrons smashing back into place is a continual wave of kilo-lightning bolts. And it's possible for particles to surf this wave of kilo-lighting bolts. This is what Thor would do if she was into extreme sports.
There are two ways to set up these "plasma wakefields." The first is to blast the material with a laser to drill the positive column of charged material. The particles to be accelerated are swept up in the wake of a front which moves at the speed of light in the material. The second is to shoot the material with a bunch of accelerated electrons. The Facility for Advanced Experimental Tests (FACET) recently achieved an afterburner milestone, with accelerations 500 times greater than those in conventional particle accelerators.
Conventional particle accelerators. That's a phrase we have now. That's how smart our species can be.
FACET's fantastic attempt to build the most scientific machine in existence.
The punching particles can even create their own plasma by ionizing a neutral target gas before blasting the positive channel though it. They're hitting something so hard it turns into a particle accelerator. Of course, hitting it with a blast of particles means you need a first particle accelerator, but the particles accelerated by the plasma wakefield can end up with a much higher energy than those you used. Which is why these systems are called "plasma afterburners." I repeat: We've fitted the smartest things we ever built with plasma afterburners.