and half of these papers were on nonneutral plasmas. It is the conclusion of the panel that the level of activity in basic plasma experiment in the past 20 years almost certainly has been lower than it would have been if there had been in place a well-planned and balanced program in basic plasma science in the United States. The danger is that basic experimental plasma science will disappear in this country, unless one or more funding agencies assume the responsibility to support a critical mass of scientists in this area.

A survey of the plasma science community in the United States, conducted by the panel, shows that renewed support for basic laboratory plasma experiments is its highest priority. The panel has come to this same conclusion: The highest priority in establishing a healthy plasma science in the United States is renewed support for basic experimental research in plasma science. This conclusion coincides with the principal findings of the Brinkman report, Physics Through the 1990s:1

Direct support for basic laboratory plasma-physics research has practically vanished in the United States. The number of fundamental investigations of plasma behavior in research centers is small, and only a handful of universities receive support for basic research in plasma physics. A striking example is the minimal support for basic research in laboratory plasmas by the National Science Foundation.… Because fundamental understanding of plasma properties precedes the discovery of new applications, and because basic plasma research can be expected to lead to exciting new discoveries, increased support for basic research in plasma physics is strongly recommended.

Support for basic plasma experimental research can be expected to serve an important educational function as well. University-scale experimental research programs in basic plasma science provide an excellent opportunity to train students in a variety of disciplines and techniques that are of importance in modern science and technology.

The chapters in Part II describe plasma physics experiments relevant to low-temperature and nonneutral plasmas, beams and radiation sources, and space and fusion plasmas. While many of these experimental studies have contributed significantly to our understanding of basic plasma science, they were often constrained by programmatic goals and by the plasma devices and plasma regimes relevant to a particular application. In this chapter, we focus specifically on what we have termed basic plasma experiments, whose primary goal is to isolate and study fundamental plasma phenomena in the simplest and most flexible situation possible. The objective of these experiments is to test our understanding of fundamental plasma phenomena, quantitatively and over the widest pos-

1  

National Research Council, Plasmas and Fluids, in the series Physics Through the 1990s, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1986.



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