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Is plasma physics a dead field?

  1. Nov 13, 2012 #1
    The consensus among a number of my (undergrad) peers is that the field of plasma physics is relatively dead and that nothing ground breaking has been done a long while. I would have liked to go to grad school for this but not as much if this is true.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 13, 2012 #2


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    Besides the obvious area of fusion research, one of the areas of physics that are actively using the knowledge of plasma is in accelerator physics! Various groups, such as the ones at USC, UCLA, SLAC/Stanford, UC-Berkeley, etc. are using plasma wakefields to generate high gradient acceleration. If they succeed, this will be the mechanism for the next generation of particle accelerators, especially for high energy physics.

    Or maybe those undergrads don't consider these to be "alive" and "ground breaking"?

  4. Nov 13, 2012 #3
    ZapperZ is right. There is a lot of research being done in plasma wakefields, both in north america and abroad (Germany etc.). Very promising looking technology, but I think it still has a bit of a way to go. It is an interesting field though! The accelerating gradients look to be orders of magnitude larger than that of conventional accelerators, something like 10 GeV/m.
  5. Nov 13, 2012 #4
    In general ordinary people do not have the knowledge necessary to form a scientific consensus. Including out of field PhDs. So don't worry about what they say.
  6. Nov 14, 2012 #5
    Not to mention plasmas are used extensively in electronic device fabrication.
  7. Nov 14, 2012 #6

    king vitamin

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    I'm assuming your friends were referring to *fusion* plasma research, which is indeed having trouble right now. I went to an undergrad that has a very strong fusion program, and so though I wasn't in the field, I have a lot of friends heavily involved.

    The way one friend of mine explained it to me, the DOE has a set amount that it will spend on fusion regardless of developments. Since ITER is a growing project, the DOE is funneling money into France and US groups researching for it at the expense of domestic research. My friend was accepted to grad school at MIT but was told that there was no money for plasma physics anymore so he went elsewhere, and he was a theorist (I've heard that they will continue to reject plasma applicants this year). Many are aware that Alcator C-Mod at MIT is shutting down as per the federal budget:
    http://www.fusionfuture.org/ [Broken]
    (the above link probably has all the relevant info you're really looking for)

    This doesn't mean the field is dead! But it is a small and relatively insular field within physics (as my friends will admit).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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