Plasma physics includes the study of any material in which a sufficient density of free charges exists. Examples of plasmas include the interplanetary medium, stellar interiors, the ionosphere, the electrons in a metal, the gas in an electrical arc, and the gas in a fluorescent light bulb. In fact, it is estimated that roughly 99.5% of the known matter in the universe is in the plasma state. The plasma physics community includes those involved in basics physics research, industrial plasma processing, controlled fusion experiments, and astrophysical and geophysical plasma research.


Grant W. Hart

Bryan G. Peterson

Ross L. Spencer

Supporting Courses

Physics 545: Introduction to Plasma Physics
Physics 645: Magnetohydrodynamic Theory of Plasmas
Physics 711R: Advanced Topics in Physics
Physics 731: Statistical Mechanics
Physics 745: Kinetic Theory of Plasmas

Research Group Meeting

Every Thursday, noon-1:00 pm, in N288 ESC (Physics Dept. library)


Plasma physics research at BYU, both experimental and theoretical, centers on the area of nonneutral plasma. This is a class of plasma that consists of a single species (either just electrons or just ions) confined through a combination of electric and magnetic fields. It has become a very fertile area for the study of basic plasma behavior because of the lack of the confounding effects of a two-species plasma.

We have a strong computational group that is looking at extending the models of these plasmas to more accurately reflect the behavior of a finite sized, finite temperature plasma. They are using 2-d and 3-d models to look at plasma oscillations and instabilities.

The experimental group has an electron confinement system and is in the process of building an ion confinement system, both based on the cylindrical Malmberg-Penning geometry. The electron system is currently used to study plasma oscillations in both the linear and non-linear regime. It is also used to evaluate new diagnostic techniques. The ion system will be used to examine the behavior of the radioactive isotope 7Be in the ionized state.


Selected publications of the plasma research group

Other sites of interest in plasma physics:

Home Page for plasma science and technology
Contemporary Physics Education Project - Fusion page (includes Fusion FAQ and the Fusion/Plasma Glossary)
MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center
ORNL Visualization of MHD Phenomena (Tokamaks and Stellerators)
The Plasma Formulary (how to get your own copy)

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Copyright 2015 Physics and Astronomy
Last modified: July 26, 2017