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Suggested Citation:"LOW-TEMPERATURE PLASMAS." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 19 be strengthened by the panel's recommendation that increased support of basic plasma science and university-scale research be provided by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. The programs supported in this way can be expected to attract and maintain the scientific talent necessary to provide high-quality educational programs in plasma science and technology. To develop adequate educational programs, given the breadth and diversity of plasma science, the panel makes the following recommendations to the plasma community. Since plasma science can contribute to a wide variety of scientific disciplines, educational programs should include courses tailored to the needs of areas such as low-temperature plasma physics and plasma chemistry, plasma processing, and astrophysical plasma physics, in addition to the major programs of fusion and space plasma physics. The panel believes that these programs would be helped by textbooks with the particular needs of these areas and relevant applications in mind. The panel suggests that senior-level courses in plasma physics become standard offerings in undergraduate curricula and that chapters on plasma physics be developed for more general science textbooks, to increase the level of plasma literacy of scientists and engineers outside the field. SUMMARY OF TOPICAL AREAS As described in the preface, the panel was charged with assessing specific topical areas of plasma science: low-temperature plasmas; nonneutral plasmas; inertial and magnetic confinement fusion; beams, accelerators, and coherent radiation sources; and space and astrophysical plasmas. This section contains an overview of these assessments. LOW-TEMPERATURE PLASMAS Low-temperature plasmas include those with many important technological applications, such as the plasma processing of materials for electronics, ''cold" pasteurization of foods and sterilization of medical products, environmental cleanup, gas discharges for lighting and lasers, isotope separation, switching and welding technology, and plasma-based space propulsion systems. As an example of the impact of these technologies on industry and business, the use of plasma processing of semiconductors for electronics was recently reviewed by a separate National Research Council study.3 The annual sales in equipment for the plasma processing of semiconductors amounted to $1 billion per year in 1990 and are projected to grow to $2 billion in 1995. Low-temperature plasma science requires an understanding of atomic and molecular physics, plasma chemistry, and plasma physics. Many fundamental 3 National Research Council, Plasma Processing of Materials: ScientificOpportunities and Technological Challenges, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1991.

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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