The unique properties of plasma mean that it has a wide variety of technological applications. Research within the School focusses on thoroughly understanding the fundamental properties of plasmas then applying that knowledge to practical applications.
One example is a novel space thruster system based around a plasma accelerated in an electric double layer. The physics is similar to that which drives the Aurora and allows ions to be accelerated to very high speeds which in turn equates to a highly fuel efficient propulsion system for space travel.
Plasmas are also being used in connection with nanotechnology to create novel catalytic fuel cell electrodes that require only one fifth of the platinum of conventional electrodes. Such advances are likely to have a profound effect on "green" vehicles of the future.
Selected research highlights
Potential student research projects
You could be doing your own research into fusion and plasma confinement. Below are some examples of student physics research projects available in RSPE.
Please browse our full list of available physics research projects to find a project that interests you.
Low temperature plasmas are being exploited for new medical therapy techniques and in engineering applications in agriculture. This project explores the fundamental behaviour of how electrons penetrate a liquid surface, such as the skin of the body.
Recent development of a flowing MHD model for the rotating, collisional column of MAGPIE plasmas discovered the intriguing prediction of opposite axial acceleration of the plasma ions in the subsonic and supersonic regimes. This project would examine the regime above, below, and through the shock.
Characterising plasmas is difficult. This project will explore the possibilty of probing a plasma using positrons by building a model and simulating a positron beam incident on a low-temperature plasma.
Turbulence is known to affect the plasma in toroidal magnetic confinement devices for fusion, and linear magnetic devices. This project involves the use of langmuir probes on both the H-1 and MAGPIE devices for evaluating the total and fluctuation-induced particle flux and address fundamental physics of turbulence in these devices.