First time posting, so thanks in advance to everyone!

I am working on creating a life form that is made of complex or “dusty” plasma. My inspiration is a 2003 study showing plasma forming into cell-like structures in a lab and a 2007 computer model showing dust particles in complex plasma can form double helix structures that have similarities to DNA.

Currently, I plan for my living plasmoid to be found in the ionosphere of an earth-like planet, possibly among noctilucent clouds, which are considered naturally occurring examples of complex plasma

My current evolution of these life forms is:

  1. Self-replicating double helix structures form in the complex plasma of noctilucent clouds in the ionosphere (2007 study).
  2. They become enclosed in a cell-like structure with a double layer of charged argon plasma acting as a “cell membrane”, as described in the 2003 study. Also as described in the study, they feed on neutral argon plasma, charge it, and assimilate it into the cell.
  3. The plasmoid cells reproduce and evolve, varying in size and construction until they become specialized.
  4. Symbiotic relationships form between these different cells which combine to form a more complex cell with organelles, analogous to eukaryotic cells. Among these organelles are a nucleus and the DNA-like structures.

This however is where I get stuck. How does such a cell power itself? What is its “food”? I know I mentioned argon earlier but I’m guessing by this point the cell is sophisticated enough it needs a dedicated “powerhouse” organelle. Ice is prevalent in noctilucent clouds, could the plasmoid melt it and use water in their structure somehow?

In summary, is my plasma based microbe plausible and how would it feed itself or produce energy? Any and all feedback or suggestions are truly appreciated:)

  • $\begingroup$ (a) If you read even the tag summaries for science-based and science-fiction you'll learn that they are mutually exclusive. Please pick one and delete the other. (b) You're treating your fictional creature as if it's plausibly real. Those studies are finding patterns and jumping to conclusions. When their plasmoids begin writing poetry, I'll conclude they were intrinsically right. Science is really good at discovering facts. It's really bad at establishing truth. (*continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 29, 2022 at 5:46
  • $\begingroup$ ... (c) You create the rules for your imaginary world. What's the equivalent of sugar and protein in an all-energy environment? This really isn't that hard. More highly evolved organisms existing in the one data point we know of - Earth - generally consume more lowly evolved life forms. Why does Earth's pattern of life not apply to the creatures in your world? It appears from the 2003 study that they would. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 29, 2022 at 5:47
  • $\begingroup$ You can't simply "charge" a neutral plasma... what do you do with the opposing charge? And what happens when you've developed a net charge imbalance and live in an environment filled with plasma? Honestly, I'd try to avoid going into too much detail, because that's where there's scope for being wrong. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2022 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ Also, I hope there's a special hell for people like the sciencedaily writers, who make an article including handy links to cite it in your work to help their publisher push ads, but don't provide any links to the source material they're working from. You can find the original paper here: From plasma crystals and helical structures towards inorganic living matter. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2022 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ Point noted about the tags, as I said I am a first time poster and still learning to use the site. I appreciate everyone’s patience! @JBH $\endgroup$
    – Ondine
    Jul 29, 2022 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


A quick glance through your source papers basically suggests that:

  • These kind of organisms are "complex space charge configurations" in plasma.
  • They can absorb neutral plasma and add it to their complex structure.
  • They can have their structure depleted by collisions.
  • They can lose energy by radiation and collision, effectively cooling over time.

This probably means that they need a continuous supply of fresh, warm plasma sufficient to replenish their losses.

You can imagine a class of organisms that sit at the bottom of the food chain, doing the basic job of assimilating neutral plasma and turning it into plasma cells, and other classes of organism that consume these producers, adding the structure of their prey to their own.

by this point the cell is sophisticated enough it needs a dedicated “powerhouse” organelle.

That's entirely up to you. There's no particular reason it needs organelles at all, you can simply declare that they don't, if that's what you wanted.

Consider that "feeding" could be more akin to "hacking"... ingested complex space charges are re-arranged to form part of the consumer's body, rather than being broken down and then re-assembled into fresh cells. You don't have to recapitulated terrestrial biology here, if you didn't want to.

Ice is prevalent in noctilucent clouds, could the plasmoid melt it and use water in their structure somehow?

It takes a lot of energy to melt ice, let alone even partially ionize it, and it isn't clear why doing so would be useful. Expending large amounts of energy for little to no reward isn't something you see very much of in most species. If you want them to use ice for some nebulous purpose, of course they can, but that would be up to you.

In summary, is my plasma based microbe plausible

Lets just say it isn't completely implausible, given what we seem to know at this time.

The biggest problem I have is the short-lived nature of noctilucent clouds. It isn't a great environment for something to evolve and persist in. Maybe your organisms evolved elsewhere and were transported here by one of the usual suspects in panspermian theories, but it seems like a pretty harsh environment for them to survive in.


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