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OSTIblog Articles in the plasma Topic

Plasmas - The Greatest Show on Earth

Perhaps the most beautiful and eerie displays of light in our sky are a phenomenon known as the auroras. This natural glow of light in the sky in high latitude regions usually displays ribbons of colors from a fluorescent green to brilliant purple to a vivid crimson somewhat like an unexpected beautiful sunrise or sunset.  Observers often call it the greatest show on Earth.

Auroras are triggered by geomagnetic storms when gusts of solar plasma wind strike the Earth’s magnetic field; charged particles rain down over the north and south magnetic poles, lighting up the atmosphere and causing the air to glow. In the northern latitude, this display is known as the aurora borealis or northern lights and in the southern latitude, it is known as aurora australis or southern lights.  Like lightening, auroras are one of the few naturally-occurring plasmas found here on Earth.

Plasma science involving both natural and artificially produced plasma encompasses a variety of science disciplines ranging from plasma physics, atomic and molecular physics, chemistry, energy security, advanced space propulsion, and material science.  Plasma’s unique behaviors and characteristics make them useful in a large and growing number of scientific and industrial applications important to our universe.  

DOE researchers are making significant progress in this amazing field.  For example, researchers at the...

Related Topics: ambient-gas, auroras, geomagnetic storms, microwave thrusters, nanomaterials, OSTI collections, plasma, SciTech Connect, spaceship propulsion, William Watson


Free-Electron Lasers move discovery into warp speed


Free-Electron Lasers move discovery into warp speed

Scientific research being performed today using free-electron lasers could be fodder for the next James Bond or Star Wars movie but it is way better than science fiction and it is real. 

Almost everything we know about the laws of nature and how and why we react to the world around us took many centuries to develop. However, recent free-electron laser research breakthroughs are shedding light on these fundamental processes of life and moving scientific discovery into warp speed.

The revolutionary Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Acceleratory Laboratory is the world’s most powerful x-ray free-electron laser and represents a new kind of laboratory for doing many types of physics. Using SLAC's linear accelerator to create the powerful X-rays, LCLS pushes science to new extremes with ultrabright, ultrashort pulses that capture atomic-scale snapshots in quadrillionths of a second.  

Researchers have used the LCLS to measure, in atomic detail, a key process at work in extreme plasmas like those found in stars, the rims of black holes and other massive cosmic phenomena. This important x-ray laser research is changing our understanding of the larger physical processes taking place in celestial sources and may pave the way for increased astrophysics research.   

The first new biological structure has been solved by a group of international scientists using the LCLS.  The study mapped a weak spot in the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, pinpointing a promising new target for treating a disease that annually kills about 30,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa. ...

Related Topics: atomic-scale, free-electron lasers, Linac Coherent Light Source, plasma, scientists, ultrabright, x-rays