# How do 4 way plasma cigarette lighters do what they do?

#### Roflberry Pwncakes®

Joined May 18, 2021
7
Hi everyone. I just bought an electronic cigarette lighter that uses plasma discharge instead of flammable fuel. The thing is, instead of is having 2 electrodes to create the ion channel, there are 4 electrodes arranged in a square and the plasma converges in an X, which confuses me. By my thinking it seems that from any electrode the path of least resistance would be to the electrode at right angles to it with the opposite polarity rather than the electrode on the opposite corner at 45°. How do the ion channels form an X instead of 2 parallel channels... how would that even work? How can two streams cross like that, and what happens at the intersection... how are the electrons moving there? I measured the distance between electrodes and they're ~3.5 mm away from the electrodes to their right and left but they're exactly 5 mm to the electrode on the opposite corner, and that made me wonder if it uses a solid state tesla coil that's oscillating at 60 GHz which has a wavelength of 5mm. The high voltage would cause local ionization and cause a corona discharge that would be drawn to the electrode that is exactly one wavelength away and ignore the closer electrode because it's less than one wavelength. I'm wondering if the streams can cross because the center of the X is the half wave zero crossing, so at that point the amplitudes of both streams, which would be in phase, would be 0 and they could pass through each other without any standing wave superposition. I don't know... I'm probably way off base, I've only had 2 years of education and that was 15 years ago. I'm fascinated by it though and my mind is riffing... 2 ion channels crossing each other doesn't seem like it should be possible, I would expect them to combine into one stream like ion runners in a thunderstorm that meet and form a lightning arc. Anyway, if someone who isn't busy and knows how this phenomenon happens could educate me, that would be swell. The plasma looks a lot more intense in the photo that it actually is because of how I set the exposure. In reality the plasma looks a lot more the streamers in a plasma ball.

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#### shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
9,645
Just a wild guess. Both sets of electrodes are isolated from each other, powered by a completely different circuit. Meaning there are two circuits in the lighter, not one.

#### nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,426
Just a quick WAG without looking much at how one actually works.

The ions are accelerated 'like' charges at the intersection from pulsed crossed sets of electrodes at some high (for audio) frequency. If we assume dual isolated high voltage generators inside the lighter then individual ions have instantaneous speed (from the electric field acceleration from the electrodes), velocity (rate at which the position changes) across the active electrodes and a property of charged plasma called 'space charge' that forms a somewhat isolated channel for the ion currents.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debye_sheath
https://eirc.ims.uconn.edu/research/#
This tends to keep the ion current path fairly restrained (straight for short distances) inside the sheath across each set of isolated (acceleration electric field) active electrodes during each discharge pulse.

People have modified the simple controller code that pulses the arcs.

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#### Roflberry Pwncakes®

Joined May 18, 2021
7
Just a quick WAG without looking much at how one actually works....
This is exactly the sort of answer I was looking for. Thank you.

#### Roflberry Pwncakes®

Joined May 18, 2021
7
The ions are accelerated 'like' charges at the intersection from pulsed crossed sets of electrodes at some high (for audio) frequency. If we assume dual isolated high voltage generators inside the lighter then individual ions have instantaneous speed (from the electric field acceleration from the electrodes), velocity (rate at which the position changes) across the active electrodes and a property of charged plasma called 'space charge' that forms a somewhat isolated channel for the ion currents.
It never occurred to me that the electrodes could be driven by discrete pulses... something like a demuxer or a latch that would fire a pulse to one cathode when triggered and a pulse to the other cathode on the next trigger pulse so that electrons would move through the intersection like traffic at the intersection of 2 one way streets.

#### nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,426
It never occurred to me that the electrodes could be driven by discrete pulses... something like a demuxer or a latch that would fire a pulse to one cathode when triggered and a pulse to the other cathode on the next trigger pulse so that electrons would move through the intersection like traffic at the intersection of 2 one way streets.