Plasma Physics


Plasmas represent the fourth state of matter in which electrons are dissociated from atomic nuclei and long-range electric and magnetic forces give rise to collective behavior such as shielding, drifts, waves and instabilities. Plasmas exist over a very broad range of parameters in both natural and laboratory environments. Naturally occurring plasmas include both astrophysical and terrestrial phenomena such as interstellar nebulae, the solar wind, the aurora borealis and lightning. Laboratory plasmas are utilized for investigating the potential of fusion energy, studying basic plasma physics phenomena, industrial processes, and lighting.

Plasma physics research at Auburn includes both experimental and theoretical activities involving fusion energy, basic plasma physics, dusty plasmas and space plasmas.

Fusion Energy Research

Fusion is a process that combines atomic nuclei of light elements, such as isotopes of hydrogen (e.g. deuterium and tritium) to form heavier elements. Fusion drives the sun and creates heavy elements in the core of stars. During the fusion reaction, energy is released which could be harnessed to generate heat and electricity. Auburn faculty and students are actively engaged in experimental, theoretical and computational plasma physics research related to the development of fusion energy.

Learn more about the Compact Toroidal Hybrid experiment located in the Physics Department at Auburn University.

Learn more about the collaboration between Auburn University and the W7-X stellarator located in Greifswald, Germany.

Faculty:  Ennis, Guazzotto, Hanson, Hartwell, Maurer, Schmitt

Basic Plasma Physics

Basic plasma physics research focuses on research of fundamental process that occur in plasma - such as particle and energy transport, plasma instabilities, thermodynamics of plasmas, microgravity studies, and the physics of highly magnetized plasmas. These studies also include the development of new plasma sources and new in-situ and optical diagnostic tools.

Learn more about the Magnetized Plasma Research Laboratory located in the Physics Department at Auburn University.

Faculty:  Konopka, Thakur, Thomas