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Physics Plasma Physics Research Potential

  1. Sep 28, 2012 #1
    I'm currently in my final year of an aircraft propulsion PhD and have become passionate about plasma physics, due to its fluid like similarities. I find engineering too-well-defined for my liking and would like to research in a less well defined field, i.e. physics. I am considering taking a plasma research MSc to fill my knowledge gap and hopefully enable me to be considered for a plasma physics postdoc.

    However, I saw a documentary on the JET Fusion Lab and Brian Cox (physicist) described the work as being somewhat routine i.e. well defined research. My questions are; how much room is there for fusion plasma physicists to perform 'fundamental' research? Is it becoming more of an engineering problem than a scientific one? Would the move to plasma physics likely satisfy my thirst for understanding rather than engineering manipulating?

    Thanks for your time, any help is much appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 28, 2012 #2


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    One could contact Culham and find out about jobs and academic opportunities.



    I have found engineering to anything but routine, but then I work with a rather unique group that applies theory and develops methods - computational systems and methodology - and perform predictive analyses. In some cases, we need to improve on the theoretical understanding in order to improve computational capabilites.

    I actually prefer to combine engineering (applied physics) with physics, and that applies to condensed matter, liquids, gases and plasmas. Computational physics now spans scales from the atom to engineered systems (engineering scale).

    There are opportunities in plasma propuslion systems.
    http://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/pro/pp/DS4G/background.htm [Broken]
    http://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/pro/pp/DS4G/DS4G%20description.html [Broken]

    http://prl.anu.edu.au/SP3/research/DSFG Thruster/DS4G.php

    http://www.mars-space.co.uk/Pages/DS4GHiPERProject.aspx [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Sep 29, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the MHD links, I'll look into that.

    Ah yes, I am also considering applying to engineering physics departments; mainly topics such as nanotechnology materials interaction with fluid flow. I understand that, in general, not many analytical fluid dynamics solutions exist. Does this mean novel numerical solutions are being developed to understand these more complex flows? Does scientific discovery exist in fluid dynamics or is it mostly new techniques of modelling known phenomena?

  5. Oct 1, 2012 #4


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    Besides fusion research, another option is Space Plasma Physics. Space plasma physics studies things like the sun, solar wind, planetary magnetospheres and ionospheres, etc. One prime journal is Journal of Geophysical Reasearch A (space physics). Other journals are Physics of Plasmas, Geophysical research letters. This is what I studied in graduate school and found it to be a lot of fun.

  6. Oct 1, 2012 #5


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    Usually only in ideal cases. In most cases, fluid behavior is non-linear, e.g., turbulent flow, and particularly heated and/or high velocity flows, and particularly if there is fluid-structure interaction.

    quote]Does this mean novel numerical solutions are being developed to understand these more complex flows? Does scientific discovery exist in fluid dynamics or is it mostly new techniques of modelling known phenomena? [/QUOTE] Yes. CFD. Scientific discovery exists in fluids as well as in techniques for simulating flow.

    here are four major areas for plasma physics:

    1. Stellar interiors and atmosphere (photosphere, chromosphere and corona, and transition zones)
    2. Stellar exteriors - outside the corona
    3. Terrestrial plasmas for fusion
    4. Low temperature plasmas or weakly ionized gases for manufacturing and other applications.

    Some basics:

    Alan Hood's text on fundamentals of plasma physics

    Richard Fitzpatrick's notes
    http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching.html - Physics courses

    There is a lot of research in Computational Plasma Physics


    Computational Plasma Physics: With Applications To Fusion And Astrophysics (Frontiers in Physics)
    Toshi Tajima



    Computational Models of Magnetic Fusion - HOW THE DEMO FUSION REACTOR

    Computational Plasma Physics Group - Princeton - PPPL


    The DOE ACTS (Advanced CompuTational Software) Collection

    Handbook of Plasma Processing Technology: Fundamentals, Etching, Deposition, and Surface Interactions

    Plasma Processing Technology Lab - U of Wisconsin

    Fusion Doctoral Training Network - University of York, Heslington, York, Yorkshire, UK
    Universities of Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and York, in collaboration with the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) and the Central Laser Facility, and with funding support from the EPSRC.

    University of Manchester

    A basic overview of fusion

    Looks like a nice place to study Astro and Particle physics.
    University of Innsbruck, Institute for Astro- and Particle Physics

    at ESA - http://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/opportun...in Plasma Physics and Advanced Propulsion.pdf

    These are just a sampling of opportunities out there.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Oct 1, 2012 #6


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    IEEE publishes IEEE Transaction on Plasma Science

    IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS)
    http://ewh.ieee.org/soc/nps/about-npss.html [Broken]

    IoP's Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion

    See also AIP Physics of Plasmas - http://pop.aip.org/

    and APS Division of Plasma Physics - http://www.apsdpp.org/index.php

    An intereting path to plasma physics - http://web.mit.edu/nse/people/faculty/parradiaz.html
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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