The Chinese have created the most durable plasma torch.  It can work continuously for years

Plasma is the fourth state of matter. We obtain it through the process of overheating, which leads to the separation of electrons from atoms, thus forming ionized gas. Gas in plasma state is a very useful tool in industry. Hence, scientists used it in what are called plasmatrons. Scientists from China have just created a very durable device of this type.

A plasmotron is nothing more than a plasma torch, that is, a device that produces cold plasma, which is then used – as needed – for welding, precision cutting of metals or applying various coatings using so-called plasma spray.

Rodlo: Zhao Weiwei

The principle of operation of a plasma torch is based on the creation of an electric arc in which a gas such as helium, neon, nitrogen or argon is heated to a temperature that allows the gas to transform into a plasma state. This plasma is then directed towards the material being processed. The mixture of argon and hydrogen is commonly used in industry because it is the most cost effective and at the same time provides the highest plasma temperature and therefore the most precise cutting. The plasma beam is then fired from the torch through a small opening in the copper nozzle. This limitation allows for a further increase in the temperature and velocity of the plasma, which can reach 20,000°C at the outlet. One advantage of processing these materials is the lack of oxidation that occurs during oxygen cutting. This makes the plasma torch ideal for cutting both steel, aluminum and many non-ferrous alloys.

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However, everything has its limits. In plasma torches, the cathode wears out and must be replaced. Therefore, this is a kind of limitation on the service life of this device.

Devices of this type are usually capable of operating for a maximum of several hundred hours. However, it turns out that the situation may now change.

Scientists from the Chinese Institute of Physical Sciences in Hefei They have developed a new plasmatron that can operate not only for several hundred hours, but for several years. The most durable plasma torch in history has been created.

Read also: Plasma rings are like a “Star Wars” force. It's pure physics, not telekinesis

However, there is no magic here. Scientists used a relatively simple solution: a system was developed to continuously refill the cathode without having to interrupt the operation of the plasma torch. This seemingly simple solution solves problems related to conductivity, thermal conductivity, tightness, water cooling and permanent drive mechanisms, thus significantly increasing the durability and uptime of the plasmatron, not to mention fewer downtimes and reduced maintenance costs.

It's worth noting how big of a performance jump this solution enables. A device that was able to operate continuously for a maximum of several days will now be able to operate continuously for several years. This is truly a major breakthrough and will give plasma torches a whole new use in industry.

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