Since 03/2015: CAREER award of the National Science Foundation
Title: “Understanding neutral particle dynamics to generate a high density helicon wave driven laboratory plasma”
Plasma – the fourth state of matter – is of abundant presence in the universe. Plasmas are used by mankind in a broad variety of industrial and scientific applications, from material processing for food packaging, medical applications, car industry to next generation particle accelerators and new space propulsion systems. Even in spite of the broad importance of plasma for scientific and socio-economical aspects, it is the least addressed physical science topic from K-12 education up to college level. The central goal of this CAREER award project of the National Science Foundation is combining a cutting edge plasma physics research mission with a rigorous outreach activity to make plasma physics more present to the general public as a an important field of physical sciences for development and progress of modern industrial societies.
The central research endeavor of this award project is generation and understanding of high-density plasma regimes using highly efficient plasma sources – in this case helicon waves. Active gas fueling will be explored as a method to overcome the empirical density limit found for such plasma configurations and state of the art methods of active laser spectroscopy will be employed to measure the dynamics of the neutral particles and of ionization. The Laboratory for Plasma Physics class in the Department of Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is employed as central element for education and outreach. A teacher summer class will be developed in collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District as fertilizing environment to foster implementation of basic plasma physics aspects as extensions to present high school curricula. This effort will be at the same time a central training activity for next generation faculty. Two graduate students are involved in the development and execution of this central outreach project transforming the laboratory course into an advanced discovery learning experience on plasma physics.
Personnel: Ass. Prof. Oliver Schmitz, BSc Kurt Flesch, BSc Ian Waters