Plasma Physics - Dr. Hyde, Dr. Matthews, Dr. Kong, Dr. QiaoCASPER conducts experimental research in plasma physics within the Hypervelocity Impacts & Dusty Plasmas Lab (HIDPL) across a number of research areas offering both basic research and engineering and design opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. Current research topics include laboratory investigations in meso and nanostructure formation, complex plasmas, dust contamination in fusion systems, gravitoelectrodynamics, protoplanetary/protostellar evolution, grain charging in dense and tenuous dusty plasmas, grain coagulation in nebular clouds, ordered grain lattice formation within complex plasmas, wave propagation and dispersion relationships through ordered and disordered complex plasmas as well as numerical modeling of hypervelocity and low velocity shock physics. Additional research is being conducted in the areas of impact studies, sensor design and calibration as well as prototype design of dust particle accelerators.
CASPER conducts theoretical research in plasma physics within the Astrophysics and Space Science Theory Group which conducts numerical modeling of the early stages of planet formation, charging and coagulation of dust, planetary ring dynamics, meso and nanostructure formation, grain charging in dense and tenuous dusty plasmas, ordered grain lattice formation and wave propagation and dispersion relationships within complex plasmas.
Specific areas of current interest include:
Dispersion Relations in Complex Plasmas. The formation of 2D coulomb crystals in low temperature plasmas is one of several interesting problems in a new area of physics called complex plasmas. In a Yukawa system, charged microparticles interact with one another through a screened Coulomb potential allowing system ordering ranging from gas->liquid->solid phases. Compared with colloidal suspensions, the particles are weakly damped allowing the excitation (via thermal perturbation or laser manipulation) of longitudinal, transverse and optical mode (optic-like inverse dispersion) waves. Determining the dispersion relations of such waves provides a sensitive diagnostic for use on experimental systems as well as provides data for basic physics research.
Coagulation of charged micron-sized dust. The coagulation of micron-sized dust plays an early role in the process of protoplanetary formation. Protoplanets are formed from the gas and dust left in the circumstellar disk of a newly formed star. This gas and dust must coalesce on a relatively short time scale. The dust is immersed in a plasma environment and thus becomes charged. Depending on the plasma conditions and the dust size distribution, the dust particles may become oppositely charged, which would enhance coagulation rates. The dust also forms fluffy fractal aggregates as the particles collide and stick. This also enhances the coagulation rate as the fluffy aggregates have a larger cross-sectional area for future collisions.
Micro-, Meso- and Nanoscale Formation in Complex Plasmas. The formation of micro-, meso- or nanoscale crystals, clusters and balls in low temperature plasmas is a recent (and very interesting) problem in complex plasmas. In a Yukawa system, charged microparticles interact with one another through a screened Coulomb potential allowing system ordering ranging from gas->liquid->solid phases. These particles self assemble into structured formations depending on the specific boundary conditions. This research area is of great interest in nanofabrication and manipulation and is on the cutting edge of nanoscience research.
Dynamics of charged grains in Saturn's F Ring. Saturn's F Ring is a dynamic system with Voyager pictures revealing braids, kinks, and clumps that evolve in a matter of weeks or months. The plasma conditions in the F Ring are unknown, but it is likely that the micron sized dust in the ring is weakly charged. Saturn's magnetic field can impart a significant perturbation to the orbits of of these grains, while having negligible effect on the larger grains. This leads to a size-sorting mechanism which may influence the formation of braids and clumps.
The HIDPL is located in outstanding facilities within the new Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) in the Central Texas Technology and Research Park. The BRIC is conveniently positioned to all modes of commercial land-based and airborne transport, providing CASPER researchers, industry/business clients and partnering institutions and organizations with over 300,000 square feet of functional space designed and appointed as laboratories for prototyping and testing, offices and workspace, workforce training, business formation and development activities and meeting/symposium halls. Within the BRIC, CASPER also features museum-quality scientific/technical artifact exhibits designed to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among area K-12 students and the community in general.
Researchers within the HIDPL have access to multiple experimental plasma systems covering a wide range of operating conditions including two GEC RF Reference Cells (one of which is equipped with a Zyvex S100 nanomanipulator) and an Inductively Coupled Plasma (IPG) system. The lab also contains an electrostatic accelerator fitted for dust particle acceleration, two frequency doubled Nd:YVO4 lasers (Coherent-Verdi), a Ti-Sapphire laser system and a single and two stage light gas accelerator system. Full diagnostics for the above are available.
Full on-site technical support is available in the areas of CAD/CAM, electrical discharge machining, lab safety, lasers, manufacturing, non-destructive testing/preventive maintenance, numerical control integration, plasma drag accelerators, system instrumentation, vacuum systems and welding. On-site fabrication and production capabilities are available through CASPER for use by contracting agencies. (All fabrication or modification requests must be scheduled well in advance of the start of the contract or collaboration.) Information concerning lead times and/or costs should be directed to Truell Hyde.