[PAST EVENT] Physics Colloquium - Edward Thomas Jr.
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- Open to the public
Edward Thomas Jr., Auburn University, Title of Talk: Using magnetic fields and microgravity to explore the physics of dusty plasmas
Over the last three decades, plasma scientists have learned how to control a new type of plasma system known as a “complex” or “dusty” plasma. These are four-component plasma systems that consist of electrons, ions, neutral atoms, and charged, solid, nanometer- to micrometer-sized particles. The presence of these microparticles allow us to “tune” the plasma to have solid-like, fluid-like, or gas-like properties. This means that dusty plasmas are not just a fourth state of matter – they can take on the properties of all four states of matter.
From star-forming regions to planetary rings to fusion experiments, charged microparticles can be found in many naturally occurring and man-made plasma systems. Therefore, understanding the physics of dusty plasmas can provide new insights into a broad range of astrophysical and technological problems. This presentation introduces the physical properties of dusty plasmas – focusing on how the small charge-to-mass ratio of the charged microparticles gives rise to many of the characteristics of the system. In particular, dusty plasmas can be used to study a variety of processes in non-equilibrium or dissipative systems such as self-organization and energy cascade as well as a variety of transport and instability mechanisms. This presentation will discuss results from our studies of dusty plasmas in high (B - 1 T) magnetic fields using the Magnetized Dusty Plasma Experiment (MDPX) device at Auburn University and in microgravity experiments using the Plasmakristall-4 (PK-4) laboratory on the International Space Station.