Plasma Science and Engineering

Two lightning boltsSimply put, plasma is a gas that conducts electricity. Plasma is often called the fourth state of matter, being the result of raising a gas to such high energy levels that atoms and molecules get ionized to form charged particles such as electrons and ions. While most of the universe is in a plasma state, plasmas on Earth are relatively uncommon.

Plasma science and engineering research examines the use of the plasma state to produce physical and chemical changes to matter (bulk & surfaces). It's a key enabler for the electrification of the chemical processing industries.

Plasmas may be in non-equilibrium, a state in which the overall gas is at low temperature and only the electrons are very energetic, or in the equilibrium state, where the temperature of all constituents is essentially equal and may range from thousands to tens of thousands of Kelvins (e.g., The Sun’s surface is close to an equlibrium plasma state, at a temperature of about 6000 K).

Non-equilibrium (non-thermal) plasmas are used in such applications as gas conversion and synthesis of circular fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia, plasma-liquid interactions for the synthesis of active liquids and new molecules, deposition of coatings and functionalization of surfaces, synthesis of active media for cancer treatment and agriculture, and the treatment of harmful and/or contaminated gas and liquid streams.

Equilibrium (thermal) plasmas are used in the synthesis of advanced materials such as nanoparticles and functional coatings, recycling of materials and waste valorization, gas conversion, as well as the treatment of toxic and persistent wastes and metallurgical processing.


Plasma science and engineering related research:

  • Synthesis and functionalization of nanomaterials for energy conversion and storage, catalysis and gas absorption
  • Coating and surface treatments for biomedical applications


McGill Chemical Engineering researchers working in this field:

Sylvain Coulombe - Catalytic & Plasma Process Engineering (CPPE) Laboratory

Jan Kopyscinski - Catalytic & Plasma Process Engineering (CPPE) Laboratory

Pierre-Luc Girard-Lauriault - Plasma Chemical Processing Laboratory


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