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About Plasma Physics
The DPP APS Meeting showcases cutting-edge research results in plasma physics.
Solid, Liquid, Gas, and Plasma
Most of the matter with which we are familiar in everyday life exists in one of three states - solid, liquid, or gas. But much more of the matter in the universe exists in a fourth state known as plasma. Plasmas are collections of electrically charged particles such as electrons and protons, and typically exist in a gaseous state. Stars and nebulae are primarily composed of hot plasma.
A plasma is formed by breaking up the atoms and molecules in a gas, a process called ionization. Ionization requires adding energy to the gas, typically by passing electrical current or microwaves through it. On Earth, plasmas are created by people every day when they turn on fluorescent light bulbs or plasma-screen TV's. Bolts of lightning are comprised of plasma produced when large electrical currents pass through the atmosphere. In these examples, the plasma emits light.
Plasmas are also used to inscribe the patterns in silicon from which computer chips and other electronics are made; and they are also at the heart of the most promising nuclear fusion devices that may someday lead to an abundance of cheap, clean, and safe power sources.
Plasma Physics Research
Major achievements in plasma research this year include:
- New results from magnetically confined fusion experiments provide key answers for ITER
- Plasma traps enable new wave of table-top antimatter research
- Experiments and computer simulations are unraveling the physics of 3D magnetic fields in space and laboratory plasmas
- Laser fusion experiments push cryogenic targets into new regimes as part of the National Ignition Campaign