Current Research Topics in Complex Plasma

Dusty Plasma

It is now universally agreed that the majority of the universe is composed of dust. As such, most environments both on Earth and in space, contain dust in the form of solid or liquid particles with this cosmic dust crucial to the development of stars, planets and life.

Plasma environments containing millimeter (10-3m) to nanometer (10-9m) sized dust particles are usually called complex (or dusty) plasmas. In order to properly understand our Universe requires a fundamental knowledge of dusty plasma physics that can only be attained through an integrated numerical / experimental approach such as the one employed within CASPER.

Dust as Probes

Plasma is the most abundant, yet least understood state of matter in the universe. CASPER scientists are developing tools for the detection and analysis of cosmic environments having concentrations of charged dust particles. In particular, high-precision diagnostics techniques, where individual dust particles are used as probes for characterization of laboratory plasma environments are of ongoing interest.

Dust grains immersed in plasma become negatively charged due to electron collection and are subject to both plasma drag forces and collective plasma interactions. Due to their small size, usually being millimeter (10−3m) to nanometer (10−9m) in diameter, dust particles are highly sensitive to changes in the plasma environment. Scientists at CASPER have developed techniques that allow mapping of the forces acting on the dust particles within various plasma discharge devices. One such technique is the dust dropping method, where a large number of dust grains are dropped into the plasma environment and their trajectories tracked using a high-speed camera system to determine local accelerations and respective forces. The data acquired from these particle drops allow for reconstruction of the three-dimensional vector-fields providing the acting forces and subsequent analysis of the underlying plasma fields.

Faculty & Staff: Truell Hyde, Lorin Matthews, Jens Schmidt, Mike Cook, Jorge Carmona Reyes, Kenneth Ulibarri

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