In physics and chemistry, Plasma is a partially ionized gas in which a certain proportion of electrons are actually free of their atomic orbits rather than being bound to a single atom or molecule.
The ability of the negative charges to move somewhat independently makes the plasma electrically conductive, making it respond strongly to electromagnetic fields. Plasma therefore has properties quite unlike those of solids, liquids, or gases and is considered to be a fourth, distinct state of matter. Plasma typically takes the form of neutral, gas-like clouds created by great sources of heat; for example, in the case of stars, or the nebulae from which stars form.
The Covenant military uses plasma as a weapon form to great effect, containing and guiding it in the form of a single bolt, beam, or continuous stream. Plasma-based weapons are the most common armament of Covenant infantry and vehicular forces, and the main armament of their warships, dominating almost the entire weapon arsenal. Small arms are designed to deplete shielding or melt infantry armor, while heavier weapons can destroy vehicles or buildings. The largest are mounted onto capital ships and are used for orbital bombardment and ship-to-ship combat, and can reduce a ship's hull to a pile of molten metal floating in space. When a plasma weapon is charging, a high quantity of beta particle radiation is emitted. For industrial applications, the Covenant terraforms planets as to convert them to plasma.
The UNSC uses plasma as an energy source and to cut heavy metals in factories. There was an attempt, however, to produce a tank with plasma-based weaponry for the armed services, but it was abandoned, falling back on projectile weaponry. Plasma is also used in coils by the UNSC.
The Forerunners utilized plasma in their weaponry and was used in Sentinels.
Complete armor protection from plasma is generally difficult to obtain due to the plasma's high damage ratio. The armor used by the UNSC marines usually has a good protection from plasma, but only to an extent. A series of hits from a plasma weapon will literally melt or burn the armor, rendering it useless. The earlier SPARTAN-II armor variants were similar to the Marines' armor, in that it will eventually give way to the plasma. Later iterations of the Spartans' armor boast energy shields, which provide additional protection from plasma, although shielding systems can be completely depleted by sustained plasma fire, or a single, overcharged bolt.
The protection of the UNSC ships is insufficient against plasma weaponry. The Titanium armored battle-plate used on UNSC warships has a melting point of 1668 degrees Centigrade, but plasma is around 3,000 degrees C. However, the UNSC uses Titanium-A, an augmented state of titanium, so the melting point of the armor could be higher than normal. In addition, Titanium-A Armor is often layered with tungsten to provide a radiation absorption level of 5 and presumably provide greater protection against plasma weaponry.
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