Plasma Panel Paintings

by Bill Parker

In this artwork, an electric current passes through a thin layer of gas trapped between glass sheets. The current rips apart the bonds that keep the gas atoms together, creating a substance known as a plasma. As the gas comes back together, electrons in the plasma that were temporarily knocked off course give off energy in the form of a colorful glow.

Here, glowing plasma organizes itself into interlocking patterns called reticulation patterns. Reticulation patterns are found throughout nature, from the complex folds on the surface of the brain to the waves of sand dunes on a beach.

Glowing plasma is also found in nature, from the sudden flash of a lightning bolt to the colorful curtains of an aurora.

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(c) The Exploratorium, 1996