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Most of the matter we are familiar with in everyday life comes in 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 gaseous collections of electrically charged particles such as electrons and protons. Stars are primarily composed of hot plasmas. On Earth, plasmas are formed in lightning strikes and produce light in fluorescent bulbs. They are used to inscribe patterns in computer chips and other electronics, 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.
Seven international partners, including the U.S., have now committed to the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) as the next step toward fusion energy. Many new advances relevant to magnetic confinement in ITER—such as methods to suppress plasma instabilities, control heat loss, diagnose plasma behavior, and enhance heating—have been recently achieved. At the same time, impressive progress in inertially confined fusion plasmas, high-energy-density physics, space and astrophysical plasmas, and basic plasma science has been made.
These highlights and results of many other subjects will be addressed at the 48th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics, to be held October 30-November 3, 2006, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. More than 1500 attendees will present 1600 papers covering the latest advances in plasma-based research and technology.
The American Physical Society is the world's largest professional body of physicists, representing over 43,500 physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the US and internationally.