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Plasma Heating: An Advanced Technology

Issue: 1994 Category: Industrial Productivity/Manufacturing Technology Category Icon - Industrial Productivity
Page: 104-105 Center: Ames Research Center
Origin: Mercury Heat Shield/apollo Spacecraft
Tech Terms: Plasma Heating, Rarefied Gases, Temperature Distribution, Waste Disposal, Medicine, Asbestos, Radioactive Waste
The Mercury and Apollo spacecraft shields were designed to protect astronauts from high friction temperatures (well over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) when re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. It was necessary to test and verify the heat shield materials on Earth before space flight. After exhaustive research and testing, NASA decided to use plasma heating as a heat source. This technique involves passing a strong electric current through a rarefied gas to create a plasma (ionized gas) that produces an intensely hot flame. Although NASA did not invent the concept, its work expanded the market for commercial plasma heating systems. One company, Plasma Technology Corporation (PTC), was founded by a member of the team that developed the Re-entry Heating Simulator at Ames Research Center (ARC). Dr. Camacho, President of PTC, believes the technology has significant environmental applications. These include toxic waste disposal, hydrocarbon, decomposition, medical waste disposal, asbestos waste destruction, and chemical and radioactive waste disposal.
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