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    Plasma Physics

Phone: (202) 767-5635




The Plasma Physics Division conducts broad theoretical and experimental programs of basic and applied research in plasma physics, laboratory discharge, and space plasmas, intense electron and ion beams and photon sources, atomic physics, pulsed power sources, laser physics, advanced spectral diagnostics, and nonlinear systems. 

The effort of the Division is concentrated on a few closely coordinated theoretical and experimental programs. Considerable emphasis is placed on large-scale numerical simulations related to plasma dynamics; ionospheric, magnetospheric, and atmospheric dynamics; nuclear weapons effects; inertial confinement fusion; atomic physics; plasma processing; nonlinear dynamics and chaos; free electron lasers and other advanced radiation sources; advanced accelerator concepts; and atmospheric laser propagation.



Core Capabilities 

  • Radiation Hydrodynamics - The principal emphasis is in the development and application of theoretical models and state-of-the-art numerical simulations combining magnetohydrodynamics, high energy density physics, atomic and radiation physics, and spectroscopy.
  • Laser Plasma - Primary areas of research include physics underpinnings of laser fusion, high-energy-gain laser-inertial- fusion target designs, experiments and simulations of laser-matter interactions at high intensity, advancing the science and technologies of high-energy krypton fluoride and argon fluoride lasers, advancing the technologies of durable high-repetition-rate pulse power and electron-beam diodes for laser pumping and other applications, laser fusion as a power source.
  • Space and Laboratory Plasmas - Space research includes theoretical, numerical, and laboratory and space experimental investigations of the dynamic behavior of the near-Earth space plasmas and radiation belts, and the modification of space plasmas for strategic effects on HF communications, satellite navigation, over-the-horizon radar, and UHF satellite communications.  Applications-oriented plasma research is performed in the production, characterization, and use of low-temperature plasmas and related technology for applications to advance capabilities across the Navy and DOD.  Pulsed-power investigations include electromagnetic launch science and technology and research on directed energy systems for the U.S. Navy. 
  • Pulsed Power Physics - Experimental and theoretical research is performed to advance pulsed power driven accelerator technology in areas relevant to defense applications. Research concerns the production, transport, characterization, and modeling of pulsed plasmas and intense high-power, charged particle beams using terawatt-class hundred-kilojoule pulsed power systems that employ capacitive or inductive energy storage and advanced switching. 
  • Directed Energy Physics - Research encompasses the integration of theoretical/computational and experimental research relevant to DOD, ONR, DARPA, and DoE in the areas of ultra-high field laser physics, atmospheric propagation of intense lasers, advanced radiation and accelerator physics, laser-generated plasma-microwave interactions, and dynamics of nonlinear systems. 

Facilities Fact Sheets

  • Electra Experimental Lab Facility - Electron beam pumped laser.  [ Download PDF]
  • NIKE KrF Laser Target Facility.  [Download PDF]
  • Space Plasma Simulation Chamber.  [Download PDF]