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A plasma channel is a conductive channel of plasma. A plasma channel can be formed in these ways:
- With a high-powered laser that operates at a certain frequency that will provide enough energy for an atmospheric gas her than the dielectric breakdown voltage applied across a dielectric, and dielectric breakdown occurs.
A plasma channel has a low electrical resistance and, once formed, will permit continuous current flow if the energy source that heats the plasma can be maintained. Unlike a normal electrical conductor, the resistance (and voltage drop) across an unconfined plasma channel decreases with increasing current flow, a property called negative resistance. As a result, an electric spark that initially required a very high voltage to initiate avalanche breakdown within the insulating gas (see plasma pinch) due to magnetic forces stemming from the current flowing through the plasma.
On Earth plasma channels are most frequently encountered in lightning storms.