National Academies Press: OpenBook

Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications (1995)


Suggested Citation:"CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.
Suggested Citation:"CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS." 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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INERTIAL CONFINEMENT FUSION 69 improved understanding of strongly driven plasmas will benefit fusion and astrophysical research, as well as advance nonlinear science. The equation of state of plasmas formed over a wide range of thermodynamic pathways can be studied at pressures exceeding 1 Gbar. High- irradiance, short-pulse lasers and high-intensity lasers can be utilized in these studies. The creation of strongly coupled plasmas and the near-isentropic compression of plasmas by lasers to densities exceeding 1025 cm-3at temperatures less than the Fermi energy are now possible. The properties of such plasmas, of interest to inertial confinement fusion, astrophysics, and condensed matter physics, can now be studied in the laboratory. Experiments have been conducted demonstrating ultrahigh-pressure shocks exceeding 700 Mbar. Pressures readily in excess of 1 Gbar are now possible, enabling the equation of state and other aspects of condensed matter physics to be studied in regimes previously unattainable in the laboratory. Finally, high-energy-density, non-LTE plasmas play a major role in several multidisciplinary endeavors, including optimized ICF target and driver design, x-ray plasma diagnostic spectroscopy, and x-ray lasers. Energy balance, hydro-dynamic behavior, and radiation transfer are all affected by the detailed atomic states and kinetics of the plasma. Experiments would further normalize the computational ability to model and simulate plasma behavior and would further improve the spectroscopic ability to measure and characterize the plasma state. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Certain trends are already evident in light of the evolving national priorities triggered by the commonly acknowledged end of the Cold War. First, a healthy process of consolidation and collaboration is evident. Increasingly, joint efforts addressing design, experiment, analysis, and facility issues collectively involve the Livermore, Sandia, Los Alamos, Naval Research, and University of Rochester laboratories. Technology collaboration and transfer arrangements with the industrial sector and a renewed emphasis on the quality and commitment to education are being discussed. Collaborative teaming and partnering among and within government, industrial, and academic organizations are being nurtured all the while in a fiscal environment focused on national deficit and debt reduction. It is in this context that recommendations regarding the funding and implementation of basic plasma science research impacting ICF are made. A segment of the ICF community holds the view that the health of the field is adversely affected by the priority allocation of resources to facilities and operating costs, at the expense of support for basic plasma research aimed at a fundamental understanding of relevant phenomena. This resource allocation is reflective of an ICF program that relies primarily on computer simulation and full-scale experimental results. It also is suggested that the historical association between the ICF and nuclear weapon programs of the Department of Energy (DOE) has

INERTIAL CONFINEMENT FUSION 70 limited the size, nature, and degree of involvement of the basic plasma research community doing related work. Past classification and facility access policies compounded this problem. However, recent DOE plans to declassify large portions of the ICF program provide a major opportunity to involve the basic plasma research community. Given budgetary constraints, capital-intensive full-scale experimentation can constrain support for more fundamental theoretical and experimental scaling research and modeling. Although full-scale experimentation is essential, the inclusion of a basic plasma science research component within the fusion energy program can lead to a more timely achievement of the basic goals. The ability to conduct basic plasma science research in ICF, as described above, depends critically on the accessibility of facilities and the availability of equipment, independent of the organizations and personnel involved. A dual approach is suggested. The previous policy of developing facilities for full-scale experimentation has put in place large numbers of components, subsystems, and equipment. The reconfiguration and recommissioning of smaller-scale research facilities should be considered to make effective use of existing equipment and capabilities. Consideration should be given to providing the opportunity for a broader representation of participating organizations. Interested universities, small businesses, and corporate America could participate competitively, while at the same time offering cost-sharing opportunities. Existing federal programs, such as the National Laser User Facility (NLUF), the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) between industry and the national laboratories, could be helpful in this effort. Consideration should be given to allocation of funding within the inertial confinement fusion program to support more related basic research and use of major ICF facilities as national user facilities. Where appropriate, ICF facility use should be encouraged in support of nonfusion programs. If no additional funding is available, basic plasma science research judged to be the most important could be funded from large facility accounts.

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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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