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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
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PLASMA SCIENCE

Enabling Technology, Sustainability,
Security, and Exploration

Committee on a Decadal Assessment of Plasma Science

Board on Physics and Astronomy

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

A Consensus Study Report of

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, DC
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

This activity was supported by Grant No. PHY-1801266 from the National Science Foundation, Grant No. DE-SC0018435 from the U.S. Department of Energy, and Grant No. FA9550-18-1-0220 from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and by the Office of Naval Research. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-67760-8
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-67760-2
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25802
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020949026

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Board on Physics and Astronomy
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Suggested Citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25802.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
×

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The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. John L. Anderson is president.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.

The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
×

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Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.

Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.

For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
×

COMMITTEE ON A DECADAL ASSESSMENT OF PLASMA SCIENCE

MARK J. KUSHNER, NAE,1 University of Michigan, Co-Chair

GARY P. ZANK, NAS,2 University of Alabama, Huntsville, Co-Chair

AMITAVA BHATTACHARJEE, Princeton University

PETER BRUGGEMAN, University of Minnesota

TROY CARTER, University of California, Los Angeles

JOHN CARY, University of Colorado

CHRISTINE COVERDALE, Sandia National Laboratories

ARATI DASGUPTA, Naval Research Laboratory

DANIEL DUBIN, University of California, San Diego

CAMERON G.R. GEDDES, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

GAIL GLENDINNING, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

DAN M. GOEBEL, NAE, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

DAVID B. GRAVES, University of California, Berkeley

JUDITH T. KARPEN, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

MAXIM Y. LYUTIKOV, Purdue University

JOHN S. SARFF, University of Wisconsin, Madison

ADAM B. SEFKOW, University of Rochester

EDWARD E. THOMAS, JR., Auburn University

Staff

CHRISTOPHER J. JONES, Program Officer, Study Director

JAMES C. LANCASTER, Director

NEERAJ P. GORKHALY, Associate Program Officer

AMISHA JINANDRA, Research Associate

LINDA WALKER, Program Coordinator

BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.

2 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
×

BOARD ON PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY

ABRAHAM LOEB, NAS,1 Harvard University, Chair

ANDREW LANKFORD, University of California, Irvine, Vice Chair

MEIGAN ARONSON, University of British Columbia

WILLIAM BAILEK, NAS, Princeton University

JILL DAHLBURG, Naval Research Laboratory

SALLY DAWSON, Brookhaven National Laboratory

LOUIS DIMAURO, The Ohio State University

WENDY FREEDMAN, NAS, University of Chicago

TIM HECKMAN, NAS, Johns Hopkins University

WENDELL T. HILL III, University of Maryland

ALAN J. HURD, Los Alamos National Laboratory

CHUNG-PEI MA, University of California, Berkeley

NERGIS MAVALVALA, NAS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

SUNIL SINHA, University of California, San Diego

WILLIAM A. ZAJC, Columbia University

Staff

JAMES C. LANCASTER, Director

GREGORY MACK, Senior Program Officer

CHRISTOPHER J. JONES, Program Officer

NEERAJ P. GORKHALY, Associate Program Officer

AMISHA JINANDRA, Research Associate

LINDA WALKER, Program Coordinator

BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
×

Preface

Plasma science, the investigation of ionized gases and their interactions with materials, is a discipline absolutely critical to the United States economy, national security and protection of our planet from space weather events, while also being one of the major and fundamental areas of physical science. The extraordinary reach of plasma science can be gleaned from the range of plasma-enabled technologies that the past decades have enjoyed. These span microelectronics fabrication (plasma science underpins the $1 trillion information technology industry), health care, lighting and displays, water purification, and materials synthesis. Moreover, plasma science offers unparalleled opportunities to address outstanding and critical societal problems. Not the least of these contributions is making a major impact on society’s ability to address climate change and energy sustainability through the development of fusion-generated, carbon-free electricity. Plasma science is also the basis of stewardship of our nuclear deterrent. Control of intense lasers interacting with plasmas is enabling a new generation of particle accelerators that could revolutionize X-ray imaging from medicine to industry, and enable investigation of new quantum phenomena. Plasma science as a scientific discipline in its own right is remarkable in spanning a huge range of physics, contributing to and drawing from disciplines as diverse as space physics and astrophysics; materials science and engineering; atomic, molecular, and optical physics; chemistry; biology; medicine; and agriculture.

The importance of plasma science to the nation is reflected by its support from a variety of federal agencies in developing decadal assessments to measure the impact, accomplishments, future research directions, and the role that plasma

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
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science plays in meeting United States national priorities. This report, Plasma Science: Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration, (hereafter “Plasma 2020”), is the third in the series of decadal studies providing this assessment. The Plasma 2020 report was requested and funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The committee’s statement of task authored by these agencies appears in Appendix A.

By any measure, plasma science and plasma-enabled technologies have revolutionized modern society and enabled our understanding of the fundamental processes that govern stars and galaxies, the magnetic fields of planets, the atmosphere, interaction of intense electromagnetic fields with matter, and how energy self-organizes in response to its environment. In addition to the fundamental and exciting aspect of plasma science in exploring nature, our everyday lives are surrounded by the extraordinary outcomes of applying plasma science in providing societal benefit. Technologies ranging from cell phones to solar cells rely on plasmas for their economic fabrication. The lesson to be drawn from these examples of plasma science in our lives is that there is enormous potential for plasma science to make equal and greater contributions to society moving forward. The recognition of this potential led the committee to identify in the findings and recommendations of Plasma 2020 the means to make these potential contributions a reality.

There is, however, a possible impediment to achieving that potential, and that is the manner in which federal funding for plasma science is structured in the United States. Due to its wide-ranging value to so many applications and sciences, plasma science funding tends to be distributed across multiple agencies. As a result there is a lack of cohesive strategic goals. This has a limiting effect on plasma science as a whole, but of greater concern is that it leaves opportunities untaken and in some cases limits the leadership of the nation in multiple areas of plasma science and engineering. Although its comments on this topic are specific to plasma science, the committee expects that its recommendations may apply to other fields of science and technology as well.

Plasma science and engineering is intrinsically interdisciplinary. The basic science of the field is in its own right a unique discipline, and fundamental plasma science is in large part supported by the federal agencies that sponsored this report. However, the majority of applications and technologies enabled by plasma science are within the realm of other federal agencies (or other offices or programs in the sponsoring agencies). These administrative separations of the fundamental science and the society-benefiting applications are an impediment to the performance of translational research that produces the technologies that empower society. Compartmentalization even occurs within and between agencies that primarily support fundamental plasma science. There are many reasons for this compartmentalization, ranging from interpretation of guidelines that discourage duplication to

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
×

narrow definitions of missions. This compartmentalization is not in the best interest of furthering the science of plasmas, and in particular, is not in the best interest of the United States, which would benefit from more coordinated fundamental and translational research. This coordination would also better address the science needs of industry. A major theme of Plasma 2020 is partnerships between federal agencies that can mitigate this compartmentalization. In this regard, the findings and recommendations of Plasma 2020 extend far beyond the agencies that sponsored this report.

During review and final preparation of Plasma 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold (beginning March 2020). The areas of plasma medicine and plasma biotechnology encompass the use of plasmas for sterilization of materials and living tissue such as skin, and address the need to physically kill pathogens without risking antimicrobial resistance. Plasma medicine and plasma biotechnology are examples of interdisciplinary fields that have fallen between the cracks of the perceived responsibilities of individual funding agencies. Plasma-focused agencies are reluctant to sponsor projects that involve biological systems, and biologically focused agencies are reluctant to sponsor projects that have a focus on plasma physics. As a result, we may have missed an opportunity to have another tool at our disposal to aid in the current health crisis.

During the development of Plasma 2020, the DOE Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES), in response to a congressional request, began a strategic planning process. The Fusion Energy Scientific Advisory Committee (FESAC) was tasked with providing FES with a proposed strategic plan. That plan was delivered after Plasma 2020 was published. The plan was based on a community planning process requested by FESAC and initiated by the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics through establishment of an oversight committee. That community planning process was conducted while Plasma 2020 was being developed. Although the FES strategic planning process applies only to FES and its operational goals moving forward, FES does sponsor a considerable fraction of the plasma science that is conducted in the United States, and so there is some overlap between the Plasma 2020 and the FES report in terms of science challenges. The purview of Plasma 2020 however extends well beyond FES to all federal agencies that sponsor fundamental research in plasma or benefit from plasma technologies. Having said that, synergies between the reports emphasize the importance of those topics.

During the development of the Plasma 2020 report, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research1 was issued. This report discussed a path

___________________

1 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019, Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, https://doi.org/10.17226/25331.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
×

forward for the United States to perform the research and develop the technologies needed to produce magnetic fusion generated electrical power. Magnetic fusion energy is also a topic of the Plasma 2020 report. As with the FES strategic planning process, the synergies between the recommendations of the burning plasma report and Plasma 2020 are some indication of their importance.

Given the extreme breadth of plasma science and engineering that is the purview of this report, the Plasma 2020 committee did not make specific recommendations on prioritizing across the entire field—for example, ranking the recommendations of the burning plasma report over those of developing laser-plasma based particle accelerators or vice-versa. The intent of Plasma 2020 is to present the scientific science challenges and prioritize within the subfields of plasma science. The intent is to also propose structural changes on how plasma science is coordinated to address those science challenges and the translational research that produces societal benefit.

Finally, the committee thanks the national and international plasma science and engineering communities for providing input and their perspectives. These communities were engaged through solicitation and their submission of white papers; participation in a series of town hall meetings at universities, national laboratories, conferences, and workshops; and through presentations made to the committee in closed and open sessions. The committee reached out to numerous members of the community for specific contributions and input where it felt additional insight and expertise was needed. The committee also thanks the reviewers for their candid and helpful comments, the National Academies staff and, in particular, Chris Jones and James Lancaster for guiding the committee through this process.

Mark J. Kushner and Gary P. Zank, Co-Chairs
Committee on the Decadal Assessment of Plasma Science

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
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Acknowledgment of Reviewers

This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
×

Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Richard A. Gottscho, NAE,2 LAM Research Inc., and T. Kenneth Fowler, NAS, University of California, Berkeley. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.

___________________

2 Member, National Academy of Engineering.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25802.
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Plasma Science and Engineering transforms fundamental scientific research into powerful societal applications, from materials processing and healthcare to forecasting space weather. Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security and Exploration discusses the importance of plasma research, identifies important grand challenges for the next decade, and makes recommendations on funding and workforce.

This publication will help federal agencies, policymakers, and academic leadership understand the importance of plasma research and make informed decisions about plasma science funding, workforce, and research directions.

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