The Application Of Microwave Computer Science Essay


Microwaves are electromagnetic waves with wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz (0.3 GHz) and 300 GHz. This broad definition includes both UHF and EHF (millimeter waves), and various sources use different boundaries. In all cases, microwave includes the entire SHF band (3 to 30 GHz, or 10 to 1 cm) at minimum, with RF engineering often putting the lower boundary at 1 GHz (30 cm), and the upper around 100 GHz (3mm).

Microwave are electromagnetic waves having the frequency range from 300 MHz to 300 GHz. The traditional microwave frequency range is from 1 GHz to 300 GHz. Only a small portion of radio spectrum is covered by microwaves, from ultra high frequency to extreme high frequency. The wavelength varies between 30 cm to 1mm. The microwaves signals can propagate at a velocity of 3 *108 m/s in free space or about 186,200 miles per second. The microwave having a wide frequency band. This requires a large size microwave antenna. Microwave can easily interact with matter and the crystal. Hence they are used in applications like radar, industrial applications, dosmetic applications like microwave oven, television communication etc.

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Vacuum tube devices operate on the ballistic motion of electrons in a vacuum under the influence of controlling electric or magnetic fields, and include the magnetron, klystron, traveling-wave tube (TWT), and gyrotron. These devices work in the density modulated mode, rather than the current modulated mode. This means that they work on the basis of clumps of electrons flying ballistically through them, rather than using a continuous stream. Cutaway view inside a cavity magnetron as used in a microwave oven A maser is a device similar to a laser, except that it works at microwave frequencies. Solid-state sources include the field-effect transistor (at least at lower frequencies), tunnel diodes, Gunn diodes, and IMPATT diodes. The sun also emits microwave radiation, most of it is blocked by the atmosphere.

Radar uses radiation of microwave to detect the range, speed, and other characteristics of remote objects. Development of radar was accelerated during World War II due to its great military utility. Now radar is widely used for applications such as weather forecasting, air traffic control, navigation of ships, and speed limit enforcement. A Gunn diode oscillator and waveguide are used as a motion detector for automatic door openers. Most radio astronomy uses microwaves.

Radar is an object detection system that uses electromagnetic waves to identify the range, altitude, direction, or speed of both moving and fixed objects such as aircraft, ships, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The term RADAR was coined in 1940 by the U.S. Navy as an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging. The term has since entered the English language as a standard word, radar, losing the capitalization. Radar was originally called RDF (Range and Direction Finding) in the United Kingdom, using the same acronym as Radio Direction Finding to preserve the secrecy of its ranging capability.

A radar system has a transmitter that emits radio waves. When they come into contact with an object they are scattered in all directions. The signal is thus partly reflected back and it has a slight change of wavelength (and thus frequency) if the target is moving. The receiver is usually, but not always, in the same location as the transmitter. Although the signal returned is usually very weak, the signal can be amplified through use of electronic techniques in the receiver and in the antenna configuration. This enables radar to detect objects at ranges where other emissions, such as sound or visible light, would be too weak to detect. Radar uses include meteorological detection of precipitation, measuring ocean surface waves, air traffic control, police detection of speeding traffic, military applications, or to simply determine the speed of a baseball.

Before the advent of fiber-optic transmission, most long distance telephone calls were carried via networks of microwave radio relay links run by carriers such as AT&T Long Lines. Starting in the early 1950s, frequency division multiplex was used to send up to 5,400 telephone channels on each microwave radio channel, with as many as ten radio channels combined into one antenna for the hop to the next site, up to 70 km away.

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Wireless LAN protocols, such as Bluetooth and the IEEE 802.11 specifications, also use microwaves in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, although 802.11a uses ISM band and U-NII frequencies in the 5 GHz range. Licensed long-range (up to about 25 km) Wireless Internet Access services have been used for almost a decade in many countries in the 3.5-4.0 GHz range. The FCC recently carved out spectrum for carriers that wish to offer services in this range in the U.S. - with emphasis on 3.65 GHz. Dozens of service providers across the country are securing or have already received licenses from the FCC to operate in this band. The WIMAX service offerings that can be carried on the 3.65 GHz band will give business customers another option for connectivity.

Metropolitan area networks: MAN protocols, such as WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) based in the IEEE 802.16 specification. The IEEE 802.16 specification was designed to operate between 2 to 11 GHz. The commercial implementations are in the 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz and 5.8 GHz ranges.

Wide Area Mobile Broadband Wireless Access: MBWA protocols based on standards specifications such as IEEE 802.20 or ATIS/ANSI HC-SDMA (e.g. iBurst) are designed to operate between 1.6 and 2.3 GHz to give mobility and in-building penetration characteristics similar to mobile phones but with vastly greater spectral efficiency.

Some mobile phone networks, like GSM, use the low-microwave/high-UHF frequencies around 1.8 and 1.9 GHz in the Americas and elsewhere, respectively. DVB-SH and S-DMB use 1.452 to 1.492 GHz, while proprietary/incompatible satellite radio in the U.S. uses around 2.3 GHz for DARS.

Microwave radio is used in broadcasting and telecommunication transmissions because, due to their short wavelength, highly directional antennas are smaller and therefore more practical than they would be at longer wavelengths (lower frequencies). There is also more bandwidth in the microwave spectrum than in the rest of the radio spectrum; the usable bandwidth below 300 MHz is less than 300 MHz while many GHz can be used above 300 MHz. Typically, microwaves are used in television news to transmit a signal from a remote location to a television station from a specially equipped van. See broadcast auxiliary service (BAS), remote pickup unit (RPU), and studio/transmitter link (STL).

Most satellite communications systems operate in the C, X, Ka, or Ku bands of the microwave spectrum. These frequencies allow large bandwidth while avoiding the crowded UHF frequencies and staying below the atmospheric absorption of EHF frequencies. Satellite TV either operates in the C band for the traditional large dish fixed satellite service or Ku band for direct-broadcast satellite. Military communications run primarily over X or Ku-band links, with Ka band being used for Milstar.

A microwave oven, or a microwave, is a kitchen appliance that cooks or heats food by dielectric heating. This is accomplished by using microwave radiation to heat water and other polarized molecules within the food. This excitation is fairly uniform, leading to food being more evenly heated throughout (except in thick objects) than generally occurs in other cooking techniques.

Basic microwave ovens heat food quickly and efficiently, but do not brown or bake food in the way conventional ovens do. This makes them unsuitable for cooking certain foods, or to achieve certain culinary effects. Additional kinds of heat sources can be added to microwave packaging, or into combination microwave ovens, to add these additional effects.

A microwave oven works by passing non-ionizing microwave radiation, usually at a frequency of 2.45 gigahertz (GHz)-a wavelength of 122 millimetres (4.80 in)-through the food. Microwave radiation is between common radio and infrared frequencies. Water, fat, and other substances in the food absorb energy from the microwaves in a process called dielectric heating. Many molecules (such as those of water) are electric dipoles, meaning that they have a positive charge at one end and a negative charge at the other, and therefore rotate as they try to align themselves with the alternating electric field of the microwaves. This molecular movement represents heat which is then dispersed as the rotating molecules hit other molecules and put them into motion.

Microwave heating is more efficient on liquid water than on fats and sugars (which have a smaller molecular dipole moment), and also more efficient than on frozen water (where the molecules are not free to rotate).[6] Microwave heating is sometimes explained as a resonance of water molecules, but this is incorrect: such resonance only occurs in water vapor at much higher frequencies, at about 20 GHz. Moreover, large industrial/commercial microwave ovens operating at the common large industrial-oven microwave heating frequency of 915 MHz-wavelength 328 millimetres (12.9 in)-also heat water and food perfectly well.

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A common misconception is that microwave ovens cook food "from the inside out". In reality, microwaves are absorbed in the outer layers of food in a manner somewhat similar to heat from other methods. The misconception arises because microwaves penetrate dry non-conductive substances at the surfaces of many common foods, and thus often induce initial heat more deeply than other methods. Depending on water content, the depth of initial heat deposition may be several centimetres or more with microwave ovens, in contrast to broiling (infrared) or convection heating, which deposit heat thinly at the food surface. Penetration depth of microwaves is dependent on food composition and the frequency, with lower microwave frequencies (longer wavelengths) penetrating better.

Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The initial detection of radio waves from an astronomical object was made in the 1930s, when Karl Jansky observed radiation coming from the Milky Way. Subsequent observations have identified a number of different sources of radio emission. These include stars and galaxies, as well as entirely new classes of objects, such as radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, and masers. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation, which provided compelling evidence for the Big Bang, was made through radio astronomy.

Radio astronomy is conducted using large radio antennae referred to as radio telescopes, that are either used singularly, or with multiple linked telescopes utilizing the techniques of radio interferometry and aperture synthesis. The use of interferometry allows radio astronomy to achieve high angular resolution, as the resolving power of an interferometer is set by the distance between its components, rather than the size of its components.

A microwave radiometer (MWR) is a radiometer that measures energy emitted at sub-millimetre-to-centimetre wavelengths (at frequencies of 1-1000 GHz) known as microwaves. Their primary application has been onboard spacecraft measuring atmospheric and terrestrial radiation, and they are mostly used for meteorological or oceanographic remote-sensing. Their secondary application is also meteorological, as zenith-pointing surface instruments that view the Earth's atmosphere in a region above the stationary instrument.

By understanding the physical processes associated with energy emission at these wavelengths, scientists can calculate a variety of surface and atmospheric parameters from these measurements, including air temperature, sea surface temperature, salinity, soil moisture, sea ice, precipitation, the total amount of water vapor and the total amount of liquid water in the atmospheric column directly above or below the instrument.

Examples of microwave radiometers on meteorological satellites include the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager, Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer and Microwave Sounding Unit. The Microwave Imaging Radiometer with Aperture Synthesis is an interferometer/imaging radiometer capable of resolving soil moisture and salinity over small regions of surface. The Juno spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2011, will characterize the atmosphere of Jupiter using a suite of microwave radiometers.

An altimeter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. The measurement of altitude is called altimetry, which is related to the term bathymetry, the measurement of depth underwater.

A pressure altimeter (also called barometric altimeter) is the altimeter found in most aircraft. In it, an aneroid barometer measures the atmospheric pressure from a static port outside the aircraft. Air pressure decreases with an increase of altitude-approximately 100 hectopascals per 800 meters or one inch of mercury per 1000 feet near sea level.

The altimeter is calibrated to show the pressure directly as an altitude above mean sea level, in accordance with a mathematical model defined by the International Standard Atmosphere (ISA). Older aircraft used a simple aneroid barometer where the needle made less than one revolution around the face from zero to full scale. Modern aircraft use a "sensitive altimeter" which has a primary needle that makes multiple revolutions, and one or more secondary needles that show the number of revolutions, similar to a clock face. In other words, each needle points to a different digit of the current altitude measurement.

Diagram showing the internal components of the sensitive aircraft altimeter.

On a sensitive altimeter, the sea level reference pressure can be adjusted by a setting knob. The reference pressure, in inches of mercury in Canada and the US and hectopascals (previously millibars) elsewhere, is displayed in the Kollsman window, visible at the right side of the aircraft altimeter shown here. This is necessary, since sea level reference atmospheric pressure varies with temperature and the movement of pressure systems in the atmosphere.

In aviation terminology, the regional or local air pressure at mean sea level (MSL) is called the QNH or "altimeter setting", and the pressure which will calibrate the altimeter to show the height above ground at a given airfield is called the QFE of the field. An altimeter cannot, however, be adjusted for variations in air temperature. Differences in temperature from the ISA model will, therefore, cause errors in indicated altitude.

Kollsman-type barometric aircraft altimeter as used in North America displaying an altitude of 80 feet.

The calibration formula for an altimeter, up to 36,090 feet (11,000 m), can be written as:

where h is the indicated altitude in feet, P is the static pressure and Pref is the reference pressure (use same units for both). This is derived from the barometric formula using the scale height for the troposphere.

A radar altimeter measures altitude more directly, using the time taken for a radio signal to reflect from the surface back to the aircraft. The radar altimeter is used to measure height above ground level during landing in commercial and military aircraft. Radar altimeters are also a component of terrain avoidance warning systems, warning the pilot if the aircraft is flying too low, or if there is rising terrain ahead. Radar altimeter technology is also used in terrain-following radar allowing fighter aircraft to fly at very low altitude.

This graph shows the rise in global sea level (in millimeters) measured by the NASA/CNES ocean altimeter mission TOPEX/Poseidon (on the left) and its follow-on mission Jason-1. Image credit: University of Colorado

A number of satellites (see links) use advanced dual-band radar altimeters to measure height from a spacecraft. That measurement, coupled with orbital elements (possibly augmented by GPS), enables determination of the terrain. The two different wavelengths of radio waves used permit the altimeter to automatically correct for varying delays in the ionosphere.

Spaceborne radar altimeters have proven to be superb tools for mapping ocean-surface topography, the hills and valleys of the sea surface. These instruments send a microwave pulse to the ocean's surface and time how long it takes to return. A microwave radiometer corrects any delay that may be caused by water vapor in the atmosphere. Other corrections are also required to account for the influence of electrons in the ionosphere and the dry air mass of the atmosphere. Combining these data with the precise location of the spacecraft makes it possible to determine sea-surface height to within a few centimetres (about one inch). The strength and shape of the returning signal also provides information on wind speed and the height of ocean waves. These data are used in ocean models to calculate the speed and direction of ocean currents and the amount and location of heat stored in the ocean, which, in turn, reveals global climate variations.

The first part of this Foundry Note describes a technique for using a domestic microwave oven to melt and cast, to accurate shape, small quantities (up to a quarter of a kilo) of bronze, silver, white metal or iron. The technique has been used to cast pieces from ceramic shell moulds up to about 18cm high, and is an accessible alternative to other small-scale melting set-ups, for example the flask casting of jewellery.

The second part of the note describes thoughts and tests which led to the procedure. It offers guidance and some warnings, to anyone making investigations into metal heating by microwave.

The microwave work was triggered by a short reference to the refining of rare earth metals, at Illawara Technology Centre, which was mentioned by a visitor to the Central Saint Martins foundry, Dennis Glaser. Since these metals melt at temperatures above 800 degrees Celcius, it seemed possible that the method could be adapted to melt and cast small objects in the workshop or studio. If this could be done a domestic microwave would, effectively, become a cheap and accessible furnace.

Trials were begun which simply aimed to melt metals such as silver and bronze in open crucibles. However, it soon became obvious that casting to shape could also be accomplished by adapting the Reid Technique (RT) - a simplified ceramic-shell procedure for the casting of non-ferrous metals, patented in 1990. RT was first developed to avoid the problem of heat loss, which makes the the pouring of small melts very difficult - these difficulties arise however the metal is heated, and while the microwave technique set out here can be used for heating small amounts of metal in open crucibles, its greatest potential lies in its use as a flameless furnace in processes such as the Reid Technique. The crucial discovery, made during extended tests with various susceptors - materials which heat up when exposed to microwaves - was that two substances, graphite and magnetite, working together were required to achieve the kind of heating we were looking for.

A communications satellite (sometimes abbreviated to COMSAT) is an artificial satellite stationed in space for the purpose of telecommunications. Modern communications satellites use a variety of orbits including geostationary orbits, Molniya orbits, other elliptical orbits and low (polar and non-polar) Earth orbits.

For fixed (point-to-point) services, communications satellites provide a microwave radio relay technology complementary to that of submarine communication cables. They are also used for mobile applications such as communications to ships, vehicles, planes and hand-held terminals, and for TV and radio broadcasting, for which application of other technologies, such as cable, is impractical or impossible.

The first and historically most important application for communication satellites was in intercontinental long distance telephony. The fixed Public Switched Telephone Network relays telephone calls from land line telephones to an earth station, where they are then transmitted to a geostationary satellite. The downlink follows an analogous path. Improvements in submarine communications cables, through the use of fiber-optics, caused some decline in the use of satellites for fixed telephony in the late 20th century, but they still serve remote islands such as Ascension Island, Saint Helena, Diego Garcia, and Easter Island, where no submarine cables are in service. There are also regions of some continents and countries where landline telecommunications are rare to nonexistent, for example large regions of South America, Africa, Canada, China, Russia, and Australia. Satellite communications also provide connection to the edges of Antarctica and Greenland.

Satellite phones connect directly to a constellation of either geostationary or low-earth-orbit satellites. Calls are then forwarded to a satellite teleport connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network or to another satellite phone system.

Television became the main market, its demand for simultaneous delivery of relatively few signals of large bandwidth to many receivers being a more precise match for the capabilities of geosynchronous comsats. Two satellite types are used for North American television and radio: Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), and Fixed Service Satellite (FSS)

The definitions of FSS and DBS satellites outside of North America, especially in Europe, are a bit more ambiguous. Most satellites used for direct-to-home television in Europe have the same high power output as DBS-class satellites in North America, but use the same linear polarization as FSS-class satellites. Examples of these are the Astra, Eutelsat, and Hotbird spacecraft in orbit over the European continent. Because of this, the terms FSS and DBS are more so used throughout the North American continent, and are uncommon in Europe.

Initially available for broadcast to stationary TV receivers, by 2004 popular mobile direct broadcast applications made their appearance with that arrival of two satellite radio systems in the United States: Sirius and XM Satellite Radio Holdings. Some manufacturers have also introduced special antennas for mobile reception of DBS television. Using GPS technology as a reference, these antennas automatically re-aim to the satellite no matter where or how the vehicle (that the antenna is mounted on) is situated. These mobile satellite antennas are popular with some recreational vehicle owners. Such mobile DBS antennas are also used by JetBlue Airways for DirecTV (supplied by LiveTV, a subsidiary of JetBlue), which passengers can view on-board on LCD screens mounted in the seats.

Satellite radio offers audio services in some countries, notably the United States. Mobile services allow listeners to roam a continent, listening to the same audio programming anywhere.

A satellite radio or subscription radio (SR) is a digital radio signal that is broadcast by a communications satellite, which covers a much wider geographical range than terrestrial radio signals.

Satellite radio offers a meaningful alternative to ground-based radio services in some countries, notably the United States. Mobile services, such as Sirius, XM, and Worldspace, allow listeners to roam across an entire continent, listening to the same audio programming anywhere they go. Other services, such as Music Choice or Muzak's satellite-delivered content, require a fixed-location receiver and a dish antenna. In all cases, the antenna must have a clear view to the satellites. In areas where tall buildings, bridges, or even parking garages obscure the signal, repeaters can be placed to make the signal available to listeners.

Radio services are usually provided by commercial ventures and are subscription-based. The various services are proprietary signals, requiring specialized hardware for decoding and playback. Providers usually carry a variety of news, weather, sports, and music channels, with the music channels generally being commercial-free.

In areas with a relatively high population density, it is easier and less expensive to reach the bulk of the population with terrestrial broadcasts. Thus in the UK and some other countries, the contemporary evolution of radio services is focused on Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) services or HD Radio, rather than satellite radio.

Amateur radio operators have access to the OSCAR satellites that have been designed specifically to carry amateur radio traffic. Most such satellites operate as spaceborne repeaters, and are generally accessed by amateurs equipped with UHF or VHF radio equipment and highly directional antennas such as Yagis or dish antennas. Due to launch costs, most current amateur satellites are launched into fairly low Earth orbits, and are designed to deal with only a limited number of brief contacts at any given time. Some satellites also provide data-forwarding services using the AX.25 or similar protocols.

After the 1990s, satellite communication technology has been used as a means to connect to the Internet via broadband data connections. This can be very useful for users who are located in very remote areas, and cannot access a broadband connection.

Communications satellites are used for military communications applications, such as Global Command and Control Systems. Examples of military systems that use communication satellites are the MILSTAR, the DSCS, and the FLTSATCOM of the United States, NATO satellites, United Kingdom satellites, and satellites of the former Soviet Union. Many military satellites operate in the X-band, and some also use UHF radio links, while MILSTAR also utilizes Ka band.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) including the Chinese Beidou, the American Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian GLONASS broadcast navigational signals in various bands between about 1.2 GHz and 1.6 GHz.

A microwave oven passes (non-ionizing) microwave radiation (at a frequency near 2.45 GHz) through food, causing dielectric heating by absorption of energy in the water, fats and sugar contained in the food. Microwave ovens became common kitchen appliances in Western countries in the late 1970s, following development of inexpensive cavity magnetrons. Water in the liquid state possesses many molecular interactions which broaden the absorption peak. In the vapor phase, isolated water molecules absorb at around 22 GHz, almost ten times the frequency of the microwave oven.

Microwave heating is used in industrial processes for drying and curing products.

Many semiconductor processing techniques use microwaves to generate plasma for such purposes as reactive ion etching and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD).

Microwaves can be used to transmit power over long distances, and post-World War II research was done to examine possibilities. NASA worked in the 1970s and early 1980s to research the possibilities of using Solar power satellite (SPS) systems with large solar arrays that would beam power down to the Earth's surface via microwaves.

Less-than-lethal weaponry exists that uses millimeter waves to heat a thin layer of human skin to an intolerable temperature so as to make the targeted person move away. A two-second burst of the 95 GHz focused beam heats the skin to a temperature of 130 °F (54 °C) at a depth of 1/64th of an inch (0.4 mm). The United States Air Force and Marines are currently using this type of Active Denial System.

Microwave radiation is used in electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR or ESR) spectroscopy, typically in the X-band region (~9 GHz) in conjunction typically with magnetic fields of 0.3 T. This technique provides information on unpaired electrons in chemical systems, such as free radicals or transition metal ions such as Cu(II). The microwave radiation can also be combined with electrochemistry, microwave enhanced electrochemistry.

pectroscopy was originally the study of the interaction between radiation and matter as a function of wavelength (λ). In fact, historically, spectroscopy referred to the use of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g. by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any measurement of a quantity as a function of either wavelength or frequency. Thus it also can refer to a response to an alternating field or varying frequency (ν). A further extension of the scope of the definition added energy (E) as a variable, once the very close relationship E = hν for photons was realized (h is the Planck constant). A plot of the response as a function of wavelength-or more commonly frequency-is referred to as a spectrum; see also spectral linewidth.

Spectrometry is the spectroscopic technique used to assess the concentration or amount of a given chemical (atomic, molecular, or ionic) species. In this case, the instrument that performs such measurements is a spectrometer, spectrophotometer, or spectrograph.

Spectroscopy/spectrometry is often used in physical and analytical chemistry for the identification of substances through the spectrum emitted from or absorbed by them.

Spectroscopy/spectrometry is also heavily used in astronomy and remote sensing. Most large telescopes have spectrometers, which are used either to measure the chemical composition and physical properties of astronomical objects or to measure their velocities from the Doppler shift of their spectral lines.

12.Plasma Physics

Microwave frequencies typically ranging from 110 - 140 GHz are used in stellorators and more notably in tokamak experimental fusion reactors to help heat the fuel into a plasma state. The upcoming International Thermonuclear Experemental Reactor (ITER) is expected to range from 110-170 GHz and will employ Electron Cyclotron Resonance Heating (ECRH).

In physics and chemistry, plasma is a gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. The presence of a non-negligible number of charge carriers makes the plasma electrically conductive so that it responds strongly to electromagnetic fields. Plasma, therefore, has properties quite unlike those of solids, liquids, or gases and is considered to be a distinct state of matter. Like gas, plasma does not have a definite shape or a definite volume unless enclosed in a container; unlike gas, in the influence of a magnetic field, it may form structures such as filaments, beams and double layers (see section 3, below). Some common plasmas are lightning, and the Sun.

Plasma was first identified in a Crookes tube, and so described by Sir William Crookes in 1879 (he called it "radiant matter"). The nature of the Crookes tube "cathode ray" matter was subsequently identified by British physicist Sir J.J. Thomson in 1897, and dubbed "plasma" by Irving Langmuir in 1928, perhaps because it reminded him of a blood plasma. Langmuir wrote:

Except near the electrodes, where there are sheaths containing very few electrons, the ionized gas contains ions and electrons in about equal numbers so that the resultant space charge is very small. We shall use the name plasma to describe this region containing balanced charges of ions and electrons.