Mir Space Station

One of my favourite devices from Science Fiction would have to be the "Force Field". Be it the quaint let's get it up in a hurry force field from the original Lost in Space TV series, or the nail biting "shields at 5% Captain" from the original Star Trek.

These fictional force fields protect us from a host of nasties ranging from a Klingon phaser blast to the unceasing onslaught of the Wraith in Stargate Atlantis. It's all well and good for sci-fi but how close are we to developing a real world force field? A lot closer than you think! Welcome to "Cold Plasma".

Wikipedia defines Plasma as; "a partially ionized gas, in which a certain proportion of electrons are free rather than being bound to an atom or molecule. The ability of the positive and negative charges to move somewhat independently makes the plasma electrically conductive so that it responds strongly to electromagnetic fields". The problem with plasma is that it very hot. Cold plasma on the other hand can be produced at room temperature, making it much easier to handle.

"Hot" Plasma, while it's more dense, isn't really practical to use a defense shield because of its destructive temperatures. You would have to employ a defense shield against the defense shield! This is where cold plasma comes in.

Cold plasma in conjunction with powerful electromagnetic fields could protect us from a host of incoming threats. Cold plasma is injected around a ship and held in place by electromagnetic fields. Plasma being electrically charged itself adds the strength of the electromagnetic field. The denser the plasma in the field, the better the field will be at deflection. The generated shield would be able to deflect radiation, microwave, particle beams, laser and other solid objects like micro meteors and projectiles depending on the field's density.

Cold plasma shielding can also be deployed within the atmosphere; however, it would require substantially more power. The magnetic field would be constantly losing more energy than it would in space and the cold plasma would dissipate more rapidly when in contact with the atmosphere.

Another spin off from these shields is the possibility of cloaking. Not exactly like the Klingon cloaking device from Star Trek, more like an "energy mirror", reflecting or absorbing radar waves. This would mean the radar would see nothing at all.

Another application for cold plasma is its ability to sterilize and decontaminate. This is not force field related but just as impressive. Cold plasma destroys the integrity of cell membranes providing an efficient way of removing biological threats.

We still have a little further to go for our next generation spaceship to be equipped with a cold plasma force field. In the near future astronauts who are manning the International Space Station may find themselves being protected from potentially fatal radiation by cold plasma.

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What does the Russian word "Mir" mean in English, as in the space station?

World and/or peace




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