Non-equilibrium in low-temperature plasmas
The wide range of applications of cold plasmas originates from their special characteristic of being a physical system out of thermodynamic equilibrium. This property enhances its reactivity at low gas temperature and allows to obtain macroscopic effects with a moderate energy consumption. In this review, the basic concepts of non-equilibrium in ionized gases are treated by showing why and how non-equilibrium functions of the degrees of freedom are formed in a variety of natural and man-made plasmas with particular emphasis on the progress made in the last decade. The modern point of view of a molecular basis of non-equilibrium and of a state-to-state kinetic approach is adopted. Computational and diagnostic techniques used to investigate the non-equilibrium conditions are also surveyed.