How do plasma lighters work? Answering the most asked question


With time, the tools used for lighting fires have changed drastically. The earliest humans used stones to light fire, and with the passage of time, the match-stick took its place and now lighters are available as an alternative to the matchsticks. Lighters are easier to use as compared to match-sticks, and hence people prefer the easier option being the comfort-seeking beings that we are.

Plasma lighter is a very cool gadget. Suppose, you are craving a cigarette, and you are walking down the street on a cold winter night. It’s windy, and as you take out your lighter to light a cigarette, it doesn’t work. That’s where the plasma lighter comes in. Plasma lighter is the solution to the problems that an ordinary lighter cannot solve.

Question! How do plasma lighters work? It’s simple; you open it, you press the button, it makes a sound, and that’s it. The “Tesla Coil Arc Plasma Lighter” or the fancy“ Mantello USB arc lighter” are just some intricate and appealing names given to this new invention. It looks cool no matter what word the marketing teams of different companies come up with.

The plasma lighters come in different shapes, colors, and sizes and also has a USB port, the sole purpose of which is to charge the lighter. It uses electricity. Hence it needs power, and standard plasma lighters take about an hour to charge and then you’re ready to take them anywhere you like. Once charged, the plasma lighter can be used for about 10-15 minutes of light time. That’s probably more than enough for one day for most people (even those prone to chain-smoking).

Variations of the question how plasma lighters work come to mind all the time.

Here’s the thing; almost everyone is familiar with the three states of matter, i.e., liquids, solids, and gases but there is also the fourth one which is Plasma. “An ionized gas consisting of positive ions and free electrons in proportions resulting in more or less no overall electric charge, typically at low pressures (as in the upper atmosphere and in fluorescent lamps) or at very high temperatures (as in stars and nuclear fusion reactors).”

In layman terms for ordinary folks like you and me, any ionized gas is called plasma. As its stored energy is so powerful, innovations have led to various use cases like plasma cutters, lighters etc. In the case of the plasma lighters , the air in the surroundings serves as the “ionized gas.” A plasma lighter once charged stores the energy.

When the sufficient energy is given to the air by pressing the button, the air becomes ionized and the electrons in the air move along with the nucleus (there are no free electrons in air) and cause current, and that traveling current is the ‘arc’ we see. Hence, the reason why plasma lighters are also referred to as the arc lighters and electric lighters. Technical stuff right there, people.

Does that clear at least a little bit of the queries that keep nagging on how do plasma lighters work? Hopefully, it does.

Plasma lighters have two electrodes- a cathode and an anode. Plasma lighters ignite when a voltage difference is developed. (Voltage difference is developed when a charge on one electrode is more than the other one.)

Plasma lighters are used to ignite the fire, and according to the fire triangle, the fire has three main ingredients, i.e., three things are required to ignite fire namely: oxygen, fuel, and heat. Oxygen is present in the air, and the fuel can be tobacco in a cigarette for a person who’s trying to light a cigarette and heat comes from inside the plasma lighter, and that heat is generated by the voltage difference inside it. How is this achieved?

Natural plasmas aren’t found around us that often but man-made plasmas are everywhere. The plasma lighters are one such example. A plasma lighter is not a regular lighter. Electricity flows through the tube when the button is pressed, or the light is turned on. The electricity acts as an energy source. This causes the charging and exciting of the atoms in the air and thus creates the voltage difference which then results in heat and thus all the three ingredients or the basic requisites to ignite a fire are achieved.


The arc lighters can be classified as the single and double arc lighters. They are different in their physical appearance, but on the inside, the basic mechanism of the single and double arc lighters is the same. In simple terms, there are charges moving between the electrodes. A single arc lighter works just fine, but a double lighter is a good toy to have and looks cool. Double arc lighter produces more heat, and hence the stored charge or electricity finishes quicker than a single arc lighter. It basically defines how plasma lighters work.

In a nutshell, all that plasma lighters need are two electrodes to regulate the “flow” of electricity through the air, ( to ionize it) while two more are just there to maintain the spark for a longer duration and make it as effective as possible. The longer the finger or the thumb stays on the button, the longer plasma lighter will work, and you can light up anything ranging from a small cigarette to a stove on a perfect BBQ party night. Once all the stored charge gets wasted, all you need is charger inserted in the USB port on the lighter. And voila! Easy as that.



  1. how much energy in terms voltage and amps, compared to watts could i get out of lt , could i make self perpetuating generator,where i get more energy out than what i can put in based upon no load?

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