Plasma processing is a widely used technique in IC manufacturing for various process steps such as deposition, etching, implantation, photoresist stripping, and cleaning.
The most important practical applications of plasmas lie in the future, largely in the field of power production. The major method of generating electric power has been to use heat sources to convert water to steam, which drives turbogenerators. Such heat sources depend on the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, and fission processes in nuclear reactors. A potential source of heat might be supplied by a fusion reactor, with a basic element of deuterium-tritium plasma; nuclear fusion collisions between those isotopes of hydrogen would release large amounts of energy to the kinetic energy of the reaction products (the neutrons and the nuclei of hydrogen and helium atoms). By absorbing those products in a surrounding medium, a powerful heat source could be created.
A practical application of plasma involves the glow discharge that occurs between two electrodes at pressures of one-thousandth of an atmosphere or thereabouts. Such glow discharges are responsible for the light given off by neon tubes and such other light sources as fluorescent lamps, which operate by virtue of the plasmas they produce in electric discharge.