Plasma Science and Fusion Engineering
Participating Faculty: Hector Baldis, David Hwang, N. C. Luhmann, Jr., Walter Harris
Plasma science: It is estimated that over 98% of the matter in the known universe is in the plasma state. Plasma physics serves as the foundation to many areas of scientific research. Examples of the research fields involving plasma science are gaseous electronics, atmospheric lightning, astrophysical plasma, solar physics, controlled thermo-nuclear fusion research, plasma acceleration and propulsion systems, plasma processing, high power switching, plasma displays, plasma diagnostics and many other areas. The interdisciplinary nature of plasma science fits well with the academic goal of the Department of Applied Science (DAS). Most of these research areas are conducted at DAS or at one of its collaborating national laboratories.
Fusion engineering: One of the most active areas of plasma research over the past 50 years is in controlled thermo-nuclear fusion (CTF). Fusion processes, for example, power the sun. The goal of this area of research is to produce energy on earth using the same fusion reactions. The amount of fusion fuel on earth is estimated to be able to supply world energy needs for thousands of years. The two most promising approaches to CTF are magnetic and inertial confinement fusion. DAS faculty perform research in both approaches. Moreover, DAS students and faculty have access to world-class facilities, where state-of-the-art experiments are carried out.
Magnetic Fusion Research: DAS also has international collaboration research activities in conventional tokamaks and stellarators world wide, including ASDEXUG in Germany, KSTAR in Korea, EAST and HL2A in China, and LHD in Japan.
Inertial Fusion Research: Inertial Fusion requires the use of high power lasers, and DAS is in a unique place, located near Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, where the largest laser in the world is under construction. Research is underway in the areas of hydrodynamics and stability with unprecedented precision; non-linear propagation of high power laser beams through plasmas; relativistic plasma effects; the development of nonlinear turbulence in laser plasmas, with applications to ionospheric, solar, and other astrophysical phenomena, as well as to laser fusion; and electron energy transport with applications to fast ignition.
Space plasmas: Plasma processes in space are part of a complex set of processes involving magnetic fields, gravity, and ion-neutral interactions. The primary driver of the environment is magnetized plasma in the solar wind, which interacts with individual planets and cometary atmospheres. Each interaction is unique and varies as a function of the local environment and space weather conditions. Researchers in DAS are involved in programs to study these interactions though a combination of remote sensing and new instrument development.