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Why or when does non-thermal plasma become thermal? How do we know before hand if the ion temperature will differ from the electron temperature, on what parameters does it depend - where is the quantitative gap between the two options?

(Has it to do with the heat release in ion-recombination reactions?)

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I see :) If there is any way you can (I dunno if there is), could you make it apparent in the question what you are looking for (i.e, the chemistry-ness). You don't have to, but it may make it better. $\endgroup$ – ManishEarth Jul 6 '12 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ It depends on the density of the plasma or the mean free path respectively since thermalization takes place via collisions between the different components of the plasma. $\endgroup$ – Nemo Jul 7 '12 at 22:44
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A thermal plasma has its electrons and ions at the same temperature. A raw plasma has hot electrons and cold ions from the vast difference in masses when microwave excited. One way to thermalize is to run the plasma through a Helmholtz pair of coils with a strong uniform magnetic field parallel to plasma flow. The low mass electrons tightly spiral around the parallel lines of force (that, of course, are not there), colliding with the nuclei to thermal equilibrium.

(That can sound a lot better than it works.)

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