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Physics/curious about plasma

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Question
hello,
i am very curious about plasma. i have no one to ask some questions that to you will be very basic. if you don't mind to tell me for example if i put a negative 1MV van de graaff in a small room and have an air ionizer (electron generator) in the room also, will the maximum discharge arch be increased since the air is plasmatized?
also if one was to have a electric potential between two electrodes such as that a maximum arch length is 1cm and then the two electrodes are brought close to a negative 1MV van de graaff would the maximum discharge length increase since the air is plasmatized as the electron leaving the VDG terminal plasmatize the air near it?
thank you,
gene

Answer
An air ionizer?  Design details and placement would be considerations.  It might help increase the number of ions in the air, thereby increasing the leakage current from the Van de Graaf.  I think it would also lower the maximum dielectric breakdown strength of the air, thus lowering the maximum voltage of the generator.  

The second question is a little murky.  Do you mean that another electrodes are 1 cm apart?  Extra ionization will decrease the discharge lengths between electrodes in the ionized air, since it's the air's dielectric strength that determines the breakdown electric field.  It's the combination of the field and the air properties that cause a discharge, not so much the metal itself (though the geometry of the conductors helps determine the field).

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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson

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I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.

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I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

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Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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