National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"NONNEUTRAL 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 20 low-temperature plasma phenomena are poorly understood. Yet modern techniques are available to address a range of problems of fundamental importance that have important practical applications. Examples include the physics and chemistry of plasmas at material boundaries (i.e., plasma "sheaths"), the creation of plasmas by electrodeless discharges, and the stability and reproducibility of plasma discharges. There are many important applications of low-temperature plasma science, yet there is no structure in place to support the fundamental research in this area that will be required to systematically develop these applications. Federal agencies have traditionally had only modest efforts in low-temperature plasma research; and recently, they have deemphasized these programs. Industry has usually engaged only in projects for which there is a short-term payoff. In contrast, there is an active effort in this area in Japan, and a large effort in low- temperature plasma research has recently been created in France. The crucial problem regarding low-temperature plasma science in the United States is the lack of a coordinated governmental program in this technologically important area. The panel recommends the creation of a coordinated support structure for fundamental research in low-temperature plasma science. NONNEUTRAL PLASMAS Nonneutral plasmas include pure electron plasmas and pure ion plasmas in electromagnetic and electrostatic traps, electron beams, and ion beams. Examples of applications of nonneutral plasmas are electron beams and plasmas for the generation of electromagnetic waves, pure ion plasmas in traps for atomic clock applications, advanced concepts for particle accelerators, and the confinement of antimatter such as positrons and antiprotons. Nonneutral plasmas are more easily confined than neutral plasmas. Consequently, they can be more easily controlled and studied. Important questions that have recently been addressed include issues of plasma confinement, the creation of thermodynamic equilibrium states and controlled departures from equilibrium, and the mechanisms for the transport of particles and energy. Many of the concepts developed in the study of nonneutral plasmas have wider applications to understanding the physics of neutral plasmas and to fluid dynamics and atomic physics. Nonneutral plasma physics is one area of basic plasma science that has progressed dramatically in the past two decades, and questions of fundamental importance have been addressed that are also relevant to technological applications. This was due, in large part, to a program of dedicated support for research in this area by the Office of Naval Research. This successful support of experimental and theoretical research on nonneutral plasmas should be used as a model for a program of renewed support of basic experiments in neutral plasmas that is recommended elsewhere in this report.

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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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