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What is Plasma Processing?

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  • Written By: N. Kalu
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2016
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Plasma processing uses plasma, a gas-like matter state in which a certain percentage of the molecules are ionized, to improve the durability and strength of a particular surface. A plasma processing technician may engage in a variety of techniques, according to the industrial purpose. These techniques include plasma activation, plasma polymerization, and plasma cleaning. Among the three, plasma cleaning is the most widespread plasma application in the manufacturing industry.

When a surface needs to be able to adhere better to another surface, plasma activation can be used. The surface is usually some sort of polymer, while the plasma consists of oxygen ions. Plasma strips the surface of its weak layers and oxidizes its uppermost layer. In addition, oxidation promotes cross-bonding of molecules in three dimensional space, which improves the surface's adhesive qualities. This in turn leads to the increased production of polar groups which, at the molecular level, are the building blocks of effective adhesion.

Polymers, or large chains of molecules with repeating units, can be synthesized using plasma polymerization, a plasma processing method. In plasma polymerization, gas particles that contain carbon, silicon, or sulfur react with plasma, becoming highly ionic particles. Due to the polymer-producing qualities of carbon, silicon, and sulfur, the particles easily assemble into a cross-linked and stable polymer. Using external factors such as pressure, temperature, and gas flow rate, the process of polymer creation can be controlled.

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The plasma polymerization method of plasma processing boasts a number of benefits. It is a far simpler method of polymer synthesis than traditional polymerization. Furthermore, the adhesive qualities of the final product are high. The new material can stick to other polymers, metal, and even glass. More often than not, polymers produced from plasma polymerization make for excellent scratch-resistant coatings and protective films.

Plasma cleaning is an effective way to remove harmful contaminants from a surface. Well regarded as an eco-friendly industrial cleaning method, many companies in manufacturing favor plasma as a cleaning agent. Plasma is able to conduct electricity. When this gas-like substance encounters electrical energy, it increases in temperature, which causes its ions to vibrate rapidly. The vibration of the ions will, in essence, scrub clean any surface which interacts with it.

Energy is transferred from the movement of the ions to the surface in this plasma process. The energy modifies the surface in such a way as to change its physical and chemical properties without changing the overall composition of the rest of the material. Typically argon, oxygen or a mix of hydrogen and nitrogen are used to create the plasma cleanser.

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