Most of the observable matter in the universe is in the plasma (ionized) state. This includes stars, galaxies, our sun, the solar wind, the magnetosphere, and the upper atmosphere. Plasma science affects our daily life in many ways. Plasma processing of materials, the technology of lighting and lasers, and plasma for pollution control are important to the electronic, information technology, and environment industries. Nearly five decades of studies in plasma science have led to the demonstration of controlled thermonuclear fusion in the laboratory. The long-term challenge lies in the construction of a fusion reactor that will provide an abundant and environmentally safe energy source.
A core group of researchers in the Faculties of Science and Engineering conducts basic and applied studies in plasma physics. Five main research areas are: substorms and auroral arc formation, modelling of complex plasma systems using high-performance computers, transport in fusion plasmas, forefront x-ray sources and applications, and plasma applications and materials processing.
The group's members have developed the most complete description of wave processes forming auroral arcs, electric fields, and particle acceleration in the auroral accelerator and have been invited to describe their work at numerous international meetings. They have also made many important contributions both in algorithm development and adaptation to parallel computing architectures. These techniques will have a major impact in the areas of controlled fusion research and the influence of space weather on satellites and electrical power systems on Earth. Their nonlocal transport model of controlled thermonuclear fusion is the most complete description of an electron transport, which is valid over the entire range of particle collisionality.