How Plasma Screens Work:

The basic idea of a plasma display is to illuminate hundreds of thousands of tiny, colored fluorescent lights to form an image. Each pixel is made up of three fluorescent lights — a red light, a green light and a blue light.

The central element in a fluorescent light is a plasma, a gas made up of free-flowing ions (electrically charged atoms) and electrons (negatively charged particles).

Xenon and neon atoms, the elements used in plasma screens, release light photons when they are excited. Mostly, these atoms release ultraviolet light photons, which are invisible to the human eye. But ultraviolet photons can be used to excite visible light photons.

The xenon and neon gas in a plasma television is contained in hundreds of thousands of tiny cells positioned between two plates of glass. Long electrodes are also sandwiched between the glass plates, on both sides of the cells. The address electrodes sit behind the cells, along the rear glass plate. The transparent display electrodes, which are surrounded by an insulating dielectric material and covered by a magnesium oxide protective layer, are mounted above the cell, along the front glass plate. Both sets of electrodes extend across the entire screen.

To ionize the gas in a particular cell, the plasma display’s computer charges the electrodes that intersect at that cell. It does this thousands of times in a small fraction of a second, charging each cell in turn.

When the intersecting electrodes are charged (with a voltage difference between them), an electric current flows through the gas in the cell. The current creates a rapid flow of charged particles, which stimulates the gas atoms to release ultraviolet photons.

The released ultraviolet photons interact with phosphor material coated on the inside wall of the cell. Phosphors are substances that give off light when they are exposed to other light. When an ultraviolet photon hits a phosphor atom in the cell, one of the phosphor’s electrons jumps to a higher energy level and the atom heats up. When the electron falls back to its normal level, it releases energy in the form of a visible light photon.

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