Nav: Home

The coming of age of plasma physics

December 19, 2018

Once upon a time, people thought that electrons and ions always stuck together, living happily ever after. However, under low density of matter or high temperatures, the components of matter are no longer bound together. Instead, they form plasma, a state of matter naturally occurring in our universe, which has since been harnessed for everyday applications such as TV screens, chip etching and torches, but also propulsion and even sustained energy production via controlled fusion.

In a fascinating editorial for a special plasma issue of EPJ H, called "Plasma physics in the 20th century as told by players", three physicists share their perspectives on key events in the early history of plasma physics, in the first half of the 20th century. First, Patrick Diamond, from the University of California San Diego, USA, shares his recollections of the early days of wireless transmission and the description of the 'Heavyside Layer' (the electrically conducting layer of the upper atmosphere, which transmits radio waves). In turn, Yves Pomeau from the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, talks about the role of Irving Langmuir in the development of plasma physics theory, namely his calculation of the frequency of oscillation of electrons in a plasma environment with much heavier ions. Lastly, Uriel Frisch from the University Cote D'Azur in Nice, France, describes the birth of nuclear fusion theory.

For those interested in reading further about plasma, this EPJ H special issue covers both the fundamentals and the applications related to magnetic-confinement-based controlled fusion between 1950 and 2000. The story ranges from the Soviet era and Russian efforts to the standpoints of French, Japanese, Chinese and American physicists involved in building tokamaks around the world - and more recently ITER- to experiment with controlled fusion, which is governed by plasma physics.
References: P. Diamond, U. Frisch, Y. Pomeau (2018), Editorial introduction to the special issue "Plasma physics in the 20th century as told by players", European Physical Journal H, DOI 10.1140/epjh/e2018-90061-5


Related Plasma Articles:

How bacteria protect themselves from plasma treatment
Considering the ever-growing percentage of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, interest in medical use of plasma is increasing.
A breakthrough in the study of laser/plasma interactions
Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and CEA Saclay have developed a particle-in-cell simulation tool that is enabling cutting-edge simulations of laser/plasma coupling mechanisms.
Researchers turn liquid metal into a plasma
For the first time, researchers at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) have found a way to turn a liquid metal into a plasma and to observe the temperature where a liquid under high-density conditions crosses over to a plasma state.
How black holes power plasma jets
Cosmic robbery powers the jets streaming from a black hole, new simulations reveal.
Give it the plasma treatment: strong adhesion without adhesives
A Japanese research team at Osaka University used plasma treatment to make fluoropolymers and silicone resin adhere without any adhesives.
Chemotherapeutic drugs and plasma proteins: Exploring new dimensions
This review provides a bird's eye view of interaction of a number of clinically important drugs currently in use that show covalent or non-covalent interaction with serum proteins.
The coming of age of plasma physics
The story of the generation of physicists involved in the development of a sustainable energy source, controlled fusion, using a method called magnetic confinement.
Intense microwave pulse ionizes its own channel through plasma
More than 30 years ago, researchers theoretically predicted the ionization-induced channeling of an intense microwave beam propagating through a neutral gas (>103 Pa) -- and now it's finally been observed experimentally.
Plasma thruster: New space debris removal technology
A Japanese and Australian research group has discovered new technology to remove space debris using a single propulsion system in a helicon plasma thruster.
Separating the sound from the noise in hot plasma fusion
For fusion power plants to be effective, scientists must find a way to trigger the low-to-high confinement transition, associated with zonal flows of plasma.
More Plasma News and Plasma Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at