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plasma ball

Submitted by sat on 10 September 2018

Answer updated 18 January 2023

Plasma balls are often used to demonstrate the physics of electrical currents in school science laboratories. They consist of a thick clear glass sphere that contains a high voltage electrode (Tesla coil) at its centre. The sphere is filled with a mixture of inert gases such as neon, argon, xenon and krypton under a partial vacuum and is powered with a low-voltage power supply. When the plasma ball is operational, beams of coloured light are produced that extend from the high voltage electrode to the outer glass sphere as the gases inside ionise1, 2, 3. An electromagnetic field is also produced around the ball which diminishes with distance from the electrode4.

Plasma balls are generally regarded as safe devices, however, when dealing with any apparatus that generates an electric current there are several safety measures that should be implemented. Plasma balls are sources of small levels of current, static charge and electromagnetic waves that can pose a hazard for some users and certain electrical devices 4, 5, 6.

Safety notes on the use of plasma balls

Some suitable activities (observing the above safety notes):

References and further reading:

1 Science Struck. ‘An Introduction: What is a Plasma Ball and How Does it Work?’, Retrieved (18 January 2023) Science Struck website,

2 University of Wisconsin –Madison The Wonders of Physics Traveling Outreach Program. (2008). ‘Plasma Ball Experiments’, Retrieved from University of Wisconsin –Madison The Wonders of Physics Traveling Outreach Program website: (Download the pdf version with teacher notes)

3CLEAPSS. 2015. GL194 Using a plasma ball. CLEAPSS website (Login required.)

4 ‘González, J.Y. 2016. ‘Plasma: The fourth state’, Science in school European journal for science teachers. Issue 37. Retrieved from Science in School website: (download pdf of article)

5 University of Illinois. 2007.‘Physics Van – Plasma Balls and Tesla Coils’. Retrieved (18 January 2023) from University of Illinois Physics Van website,

6 Specialty Toys Direct. n.d. Plasma Globe Owner’s Guide, Specialty Toys Direct website, Retrieved (18 January 2023) from

7Reiland, Robert. 2007. Plasma Globes and “Body Capacitance”. Retrieved (18 January 2023) from Contemporary Physics Education Project website: go to to create a login to access further resources.

8‘JanetB. (2017, April 25) ‘Plasma Ball Tricks’, Retrieved from website,

Gache, G. (2008, January 31). ‘How do plasma lamps work?’, Retrieved (18 January 2023) from Softpedia news website:

Reiland, Robert. 2021. Studying the Electric Field Near a Plasma Globe, Contemporary Physics Education Project website:

University of Oxford Department of Physics. ‘Plasma ball’, Retrieved (18 January 2023) University of Oxford Department of Physics website:

Wikipedia. ‘Plasma globe’, Retrieved 18 January 2023) Wikipedia website:

Wolf, L. (2008, October 27). ‘Plasma Globes’, Retrieved from American Chemical Society Publications – Chemical & Engineering News website: