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I understand that induction coils can heat up conductive materials such as metals, but I'm wondering if they can heat up normal air. And if they cannot, can ionizing the air beforehand allow it to be heated through induction?

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  • $\begingroup$ Tokamaks (those machines for hydrogen fusion) can heat plasmas by induction. (As far as I remember, I am not a plasma physicist.) $\endgroup$ – Pieter Mar 29 '17 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ Any ions of the air will be accelerated. The coil by itself gets warm by the oscillating back and forth electrons. Furthermore the involved electrons radiate due to their movement in circles EM radiation. Through heat convection an EM radiation all this effects heat (a tiny bit) the air. $\endgroup$ – HolgerFiedler Mar 30 '17 at 6:11
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No. Air is (luckily) non conductive otherwise our lives would be very different on this planet. In practice you would not be able to offer up a lump of ionized air to your induction coil, even if you contrived some fabulous magnetic field container the very instant you turned on the induction coil your container would be disrupted by the additional magnetic field of the coil and all the ionized air would decide to go somewhere else (could be messy !).

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  • $\begingroup$ There's a $400,000\ V$ potential difference between the top of the atmosphere and the Earth. The top of the atmosphere is positively charged and can be consider conductive. The Earth is negatively charged. There's $200\ V$ potential difference between your feet and your head. You don't notice it because you're grounded. And both water an ozone have permanent electric and magnetic dipoles. $\endgroup$ – Cinaed Simson Jun 23 at 4:17
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If you have AC in the coil, it creates alternating magnetic field, which creates alternating electrical field. If the electric field is strong enough, it will cause electrical discharge in the air, the air will become conductive, and the coil will be able to heat air.

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