National Academies Press: OpenBook

Plasma Science: Enabling Technology, Sustainability, Security, and Exploration (2021)

Chapter: Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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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B

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

The committee offers the following findings and recommendations on the scientific front of plasma physics and on government support for plasma science. The committee supports each recommendation with a set of findings that the committee has made during the course of this study. These recommendations can be taken to strengthen our responses to specific grand challenges and to broadly advance the entire scientific frontier of plasma science.

CHAPTER 1 RECOMMENDATIONS

Stewardship and Advancement of Interdisciplinary Research

Finding: Plasma science and engineering (PSE) is inherently an interdisciplinary field of research. While the underlying science has common intellectual threads, the community is organized into sometimes isolated subdisciplines.

Finding: What may be narrowly perceived as duplication is actually critically necessary collaboration needed to address the complex science challenges in PSE while rapidly translating results to society-benefiting outcomes.

Finding: Institutional barriers between subdisciplines of PSE make mutually advantageous interactions difficult, yet interactions between subdisciplines have led to important advances that would have been difficult to produce otherwise.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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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Finding: A more unified voice for the field would create opportunities for interdisciplinary and translational research, and initiate activities that exploit synergies among different subdisciplines of PSE.

Recommendation: Federal agencies directly supporting plasma science and engineering (PSE) and those federal agencies benefiting (or potentially benefiting) from PSE should better coordinate their activities extending into offices and directorates within larger federal agencies.

Finding: Fundamental research in PSE can and does rapidly translate to the development of societally relevant technologies, the benefits of which cut across the missions of many federal agencies.

Finding: The interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary strengths of PSE are not being fully utilized. This situation is to the detriment of the fundamental plasma research and to the detriment of the intended applications.

Finding: Interagency (and inter-program) initiatives would fully exploit the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary potential of PSE in both fundamental and translational research if properly stewarded.

Recommendation: Federal agencies and programs within federal agencies that are separately focused on fundamental plasma research, and those that are focused on science and technologies that utilize plasmas, should jointly coordinate and support initiatives with new funding opportunities.

Finding: The potential is enormous for PSE to contribute to one of society’s greatest challenges—sustainability. The contributions that PSE could make extend from fusion-based, carbon-free electrical power generation to electrification of the chemical industry.

Finding: The translational nature of fundamental research in PSE needs to be formally recognized at NSF.

Recommendation: The Engineering Directorate of NSF should, as a minimum, consistently list plasma science and engineering in descriptions of its relevant programs and consistently participate in the NSF/DOE plasma partnership.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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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Recommendation: More strategically, NSF should establish a plasma-focused program in the Engineering Directorate that would further engineering priorities across the board, including advanced agricultural systems, energy and environment, chemical transformation, advanced manufacturing, electronics, and quantum systems.

Finding: Public-private partnerships (PPP) have long been a benefit to PSE, largely in the form of SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) programs.

Finding: With there being few U.S. governmental programs designed to translate industrially relevant fundamental science to practice, U.S. industries are at a competitive disadvantage internationally.

Recommendation: Federal agencies focused on plasma research, and DOE in particular, should develop new models that support the translation of fundamental research to industry. Programs that support vital industries depending on plasma science and engineering should be developed through relevant interagency collaborations.

The Plasma Science and Engineering Community

Finding: The multidisciplinary approach has been at the heart of the success of the PSE field, while simultaneously working against the long-term viability of the field in academia.

Finding: Lack of a critical mass of faculty in PSE inevitably will lead to an erosion of U.S. capability in PSE. At the same time, the university leadership in PSE is rapidly aging and will need renewal in the coming decade.

Recommendation: Federal agencies—for example, DOE, NSF, NASA, and DoD—should structure funding programs to provide leadership opportunities to university researchers in plasma science and engineering areas and to directly stimulate the hiring of university faculty.

Finding: Plasma-specific educational and research programs that also provide opportunities to diverse and less advantaged populations are needed to ensure a critically populated PSE workforce.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: Plasma-specific intern programs and summer schools are needed for undergraduate and graduate students, as are programs supporting students with incomplete preparation to progress in plasma physics, such as the American Physical Society Bridge Program.

Finding: Requiring students to know early in their undergraduate years that plasma physics is a career goal has limited the number of students continuing in plasma physics in graduate school and has excluded less advantaged populations.

Finding: Support for junior faculty for course development, and for curricula enhancement (e.g., inclusion of plasma physics in other courses), is necessary to enable students from a wide range of institutions to enter the field.

Finding: The committee regards multiagency investment in education—whether through directly supporting undergraduate and graduate students or programs or through faculty and resource development—as being critical. The more “duplication” of effort in these areas can only further strengthen PSE.

Recommendation: Federal agencies (e.g., DOE, NSF, NASA, DoD) should structure funding to support undergraduate and graduate educational, training, and research opportunities—including faculty—and encourage and enable access to plasmas physics for diverse populations.

The Research Enterprise in Plasma Science and Engineering

Finding: Given these strong international investments, incremental progress in facilities in the United States is insufficient to maintain leadership.

Finding: A spectrum of facility scales is required by the subfields of PSE to address their science challenges and translational research.

Finding: Midscale facilities (e.g., in the $1 million to $40 million range, depending on agency) offer particularly good opportunities for broadening participation within academia.

Recommendation: Federal agencies (e.g., DOE, NSF, NASA, DoD) should support a spectrum of facility scales that reflect the requirements for addressing a wide range of problems at the frontiers of plasma science and engineering.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: Investment in facilities without the concurrent support of research and operations is not optimum.

Recommendation: Federal agencies whose core missions include plasma science and engineering—for example, DOE, NSF, NASA, and DoD—should provide recurring and increased support for the continued development, upgrading, and operations of experimental facilities, and for fundamental and translational research in plasma science. A spectrum of facility scales should be supported, reflecting the requirements for addressing different problems at the frontiers of plasma science and engineering.

Finding: Computational plasma science and engineering (CPSE) has become essential across PSE for experiment and mission design and diagnosis, idea exploration, probing of fundamental plasma physics processes, and prediction.

Recommendation: Federal agencies should support research into the development of computational algorithms for plasma science and applications for the heterogeneous device computing platforms of today and upcoming platforms (e.g., quantum computers), while also encouraging mechanisms to make advanced computational methods, physics-based algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence broadly available.

Better Serving the Community

Finding: Although the majority of the FES budget is still devoted to supporting fusion science, the present office title does not now accurately reflect its broader mission. The present title may, in fact, impede the ability of FES to collaborate with other offices within DOE and with other federal agencies, including impeding its ability to garner support for nonfusion plasma research.

Finding: The national interest as a whole would be better served by renaming the office to better reflect the broader mission of FES, maximize its ability to collaborate with other agencies and to garner nonfusion plasma support.

Recommendation: Consistent with our recommendations to broaden the impact of plasma science, the DOE Office of Fusion Energy Science should be renamed to more accurately reflect its broader mission, and so maximize its ability to collaborate with other agencies and to garner nonfusion plasma support. A possible title is Office of Fusion Energy and Plasma Sciences.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

CHAPTER-FOCUSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The committee offers the following findings and recommendations on the scientific front of plasma physics and on government support for plasma science. The committee supports each recommendation with a set of findings that the committee has made during the course of this study. These recommendations can be taken to strengthen our responses to specific grand challenges and to broadly advance the entire scientific frontier of plasma science.

Chapter 2: The Foundations of Plasma Science

Finding: The theoretical PSE workforce is not large enough to meet our current needs and will become even less able to do so in the future without deliberate measures.

Recommendation: In developing their research agenda, federal agencies supporting plasma science (e.g., NSF, DOE, DoD, NASA) should make deliberate efforts to support theory.

Finding: Investigations of fundamental plasma science provide the understanding of these complex processes that underpin the behavior of plasmas across the entire realm of PSE. Studies of fundamental processes tie together seemingly disparate phenomena across the PSE discipline and provide a unifying perspective to the vast array of PSE applications.

Finding: A widening gap between fundamental studies and application-inspired research impedes progress in both fundamental studies and application-inspired research and slows the rate of translational research that leads to societal benefiting technologies.

Recommendation: Federal agencies that fund plasma science and engineering should forge partnerships with other plasma-focused agencies as well as agencies focused on applications benefiting from plasmas (or programs within agencies) to close the widening gap between fundamental plasmas science research and translational research leading to applications.

Finding: There has been a general loss of broad collaborative activities within the PSE community over the last decade.

Finding: In both experimental and theoretical/computational areas, the creation of teams with the critical mass to address important and complex issues in basic plasma science are needed.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: Center-type activities can provide opportunities that strengthen the overall health of the PSE community while providing important incubators for the development of the PSE workforce.

Recommendation: DOE should broaden its support of Plasma Science Centers through recurring solicitations at critical funding levels to provide both new opportunities to advance important areas of plasma science as well as to improve the impact of the plasma science community.

Finding: While many of the basic plasma science facilities are aging, the last decade has seen important investments in several new or expanded facilities in the range of $1 million to $4 million.

Finding: Many U.S. plasma science facilities were built during the last decade with funding provided by the NSF Major Research Instrumentation program, and many of these facilities provide opportunities for external researchers to conduct collaborative experiments with the host institutions. However, the experimental facility needs of different communities that are pursuing basic plasma science can vary widely.

Finding: Today, facilities at a spectrum of scales and reflecting the requirements for addressing different problems at the frontiers of plasma science (in the range $1 million to $20 million) are needed.

Recommendation: NSF, DOE, NASA, and other federal agencies with an interest and programs in plasma physics should provide regular opportunities for the continued development, upgrading, and operations of experimental facilities for basic plasma science at a spectrum of scales.

Finding: Many potential users of these experimental facilities would benefit from small levels of support to gain experience with and obtain initial data for proof-of-concept demonstrations that are usually expected in a full proposal to PBPSE. A mechanism to provide one time-short term funding to perform these experiments would address this critical need.

Finding: In addition to a shared funding resource for user support, a network of basic plasma science facilities might also coordinate on proposal selection, users groups, and outreach activities, thereby addressing the STEM pipeline into plasma science.

Finding: A network of basic plasma user facilities that would provide opportunities for access to new and upgraded plasma science facilities needs more coordination and support than currently exists.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Recommendation: Federal agencies, particularly DOE-FES and NSF-MPS, should implement a program for one-time, short-term funding for users of basic plasma science facilities.

Recommendation: A community-wide workshop led by a partnership of DOE-FES and NSF-MPS should define the parameters and participation of such a program and network of user facilities.

Finding: Plasma simulation is not optimally accessible to the wide range of potential users, including experimentalists and industrial users.

Finding: Funding agencies have not traditionally supported code usability to the extent needed to make research codes user-friendly, support users of codes, or to transition existing codes to new computing architectures.

Recommendation: Funding agencies, and in particular DOE and NSF, should support mechanisms for making computational plasma software more widely accessible to noncomputing experts, and to transition current codes to new computing architectures.

Finding: At the time of this writing, opportunities for machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) that impact computations (and experiments) are only beginning to be realized. This is an extremely rapidly developing field. Leveraging these advances may require new approaches to computation.

Recommendation: To assure that plasma science and engineering computations take advantage of advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence, a periodic workshop should be held to share best practices, jointly sponsored by NSF, DOE, and NASA.

Finding: There is a lack of modern educational and review material in computational PSE that addresses the methods of computation and how to make effective use of computations.

Finding: With the rapid growth of interdisciplinary research in plasma physics, it is time to consider the establishment of an annual journal that reviews major developments in all areas of plasma physics, much like the Annual Reviews of Astronomy, for example.

Recommendation: Computational plasma science and engineering, supported by NSF, should include projects for writing textbooks and developing courses to train the current and next generation of computational plasma scientists, and to enable noncomputer experts to make optimal use of computations.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Chapter 3: Laser-Plasma Interactions

Finding: Compact plasma accelerators, X-ray sources, and optics were invented in the United States. However, as reported in Opportunities in Intense Ultrafast Lasers: Reaching for the Brightest Light,1 the United States has lost dominance in high-intensity laser research and related research that is essential to plasma science, accelerators, and their applications.

Finding: There are strategic opportunities in the next 10 years to build scientific facilities that can leap-frog international competition and enable the United States to maintain a leadership position in laser-plasma interactions (LPIs).

Recommendation: To restore U.S. leadership, DOE and other agencies should formulate a national strategy to develop and build new classes of high-intensity lasers that enable now inaccessible parameter regimes.

Facilities constructed through the strategy above would produce the technologically highest intensities to open up new regimes in high field physics and ion acceleration, having repetition rates at and beyond 1 kHz, with shaped pulses enabling precision control, and with active feedback and machine learning for acceleration and plasma optics.

Finding: Plasma acceleration and controlled laser-plasma optics are rapidly advancing, driven by newly available capabilities in short pulse/broad bandwidth lasers.

Finding: Applications require robust, compact drivers. A long-term plan and resources for developing technologies that can leverage science advances into society benefiting applications are needed.

Recommendation: DOE and NSF should lead a collaborative effort with other agencies to develop an extended stewardship program for long-term, application-oriented research to enable the development of revolutionary laser-plasma driven sources that translate to applications.

Finding: Collaboration between agencies focused on source development (DOE, NSF) and potential user agencies (e.g., NIH, DoD) is needed to ensure that advanced laser capabilities are developed.

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1 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018, Opportunities in Intense Ultrafast Lasers: Reaching for the Brightest Light, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, https://doi.org/10.17226/24939.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: There is need for multiple programs and approaches in experiment, theory and computation, ranging in scale from single investigator experiments to user facilities and dedicated mission focused facilities or centers.

Recommendation: Agencies focused on the fundamentals of laser-plasma interactions (NSF-MPS, DOE-FES, DOE-NNSA) should collaboratively augment and create programs in plasma acceleration and optics that support a range of scales and multiple efforts and that coordinate research, user access, and educational support.

Finding: A blend of science innovation (e.g., development of new physics regimes in high field science) and long-term engineering efforts to develop new facilities has been essential to progress in LPIs.

Finding: Together with support from other agencies and DOE support concentrated at the National Laboratories, NSF support devoted to LPI at universities is essential to the field.

Recommendation: NSF-MPS, DOE-SC, and DOE-NNSA should strongly support research in the fundamental physics of plasma optics, high field acceleration, and laser sources in collaboration with other agencies. This includes research, centers, and midscale infrastructure.

Finding: Computation and theory has been essential to the development of the field of LPI, providing insights and crucial input into experiment design. U.S. computation, once dominant, has lost that advantage.

Finding: A range of needed computational tools, both fluid-based and DSMC-PIC, is also needed for modeling plasma sources.

Finding: The innovation that comes from healthy competition would help restore U.S. leadership in computations for laser-plasma interaction.

Recommendation: NSF-MPS, NSF-CISE, and DOE-SC should support a diversity of computational and theoretical efforts to help restore U.S. leadership in computations for laser-plasma interactions.

Chapter 4: Extreme States of Plasmas

Finding: Innovative diagnostics and diagnostic techniques have enabled developing a detailed picture of ICF plasmas and imploded target cores with

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

unprecedented precision, and enabled the investigation of HED matter at previously unattainable conditions.

Finding: Diagnostic innovation is an ongoing need.

Recommendation: The DOE-NNSA, DOE-FES, and NSF-MPS should increase resources for development of new diagnostics and analysis methodologies to address needs for ongoing innovation in high energy density physics.

Recommendation: The current National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) National Diagnostics Working Group charter and workshops should be expanded to explicitly include high energy density diagnostics, interaction with midscale facilities, and data analysis and data mining techniques.

Finding: While significant progress in HED science has been made in the last decade, more advances are needed to improve predictive capability.

Finding: Improving our understanding of laser-plasma instabilities is essential for continued progress toward validated predictive capabilities, which are necessary for ignition and gain.

Recommendation: To achieve the goal of ignition and improve the quality of high energy density science, DOE-NNSA, DOE-FES, and NSF-MPS should expand and strengthen numerical simulation capability, focusing in particular on improved atomic and kinetic modeling (including equation of state), improved radiation transfer (including opacity), improved laser-plasma instabilities understanding, uncertainty quantification, and machine learning.

Recommendation: Where possible the National Laboratories should contribute their unclassified state-of-the-art simulations codes to collaborations with academic and commercial efforts, and support training of qualified users.

Finding: Federal support of HED sciences at universities is essential to the health of HED science.

Finding: The current paucity of midscale pulsed power facilities is a potential danger for the field.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Recommendation: Federal support of high energy density (HED) physics at universities and midscale laser facilities should continue to expand, not only to benefit HED physics but also to maintain the critically needed HED workforce.

Recommendation: Midscale pulsed-power facilities accessible to universities should be established, with leadership of these new facilities drawn from university researchers and the national laboratories.

Finding: The basic science programs at NIF, Omega, and Z-machine have resulted in significant scientific results despite having a small fraction of the available facility time.

Finding: The high visibility of these basic science HED experiments increases the ability to recruit new talent while improving the understanding of the universe and the science underpinnings of other HED/ICF research.

Finding: Guidance is required for how best to leverage and expand the basic science programs. This guidance could come from a new HEDP Basic Research Needs report.

Recommendation: DOE-NNSA, DOE-FES, and NSF-MPS should continue and increase support for basic high energy density science programs at large facilities in collaboration with universities.

Recommendation: The science program direction and the appropriate level of funding and facility support should be guided by DOE-NNSA, DOE-FES, and NSF-MPS collaboratively commissioning a new high energy density physics (HEDP) Basic Research Needs report for the HEDP community.

Chapter 5: Low-Temperature Plasmas

Finding: The success of the DOE Low Temperature Plasma Science Center program underlines that there is a need to sustain LTP research directions for a sufficient period of time (5 to 10 years) and size with support on the level of ~$2 million per year to enable scientific impact and translation of research into society benefiting applications.

Finding: The increasing scope of the LTP field into new materials and biotechnology requires full participation of researchers that are traditionally funded by different agencies not focused on plasma science. This is particularly the case for electrification of the chemical industry.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: U.S. funding agencies are often ill prepared to support initiatives that overlap multiple agencies and should actively pursue synergistic opportunities between agencies to maintain U.S. leadership in LTP in line with the recommendation in Chapter 1.

Recommendation: DOE-FES should establish and coordinate a multiagency Low Temperature Plasma Science Center Program to support multidisciplinary research teams and to establish the scientific basis of emerging application areas of low-temperature plasma science.

Finding: Based on the funding level for the LTP science center program, a possible minimum level of support of $20 million over 5 to 10 years for each topical initiative would be appropriate.

Finding: Advances in plasma-materials processing are challenged by the need to choose operating and plasma device designs from the enormous set of possible operating and design conditions.

Finding: There is a serious need for a more detailed understanding of the fundamental processes underpinning plasma-surface interactions that will enable us to develop predictive capabilities.

Finding: Advances in our understanding of LTP interactions with materials will enable the control of plasma-surface interactions at the atomic level which in turn will enable the next generation of materials for quantum computing, new communication and sensor technologies, and energy storage and harvesting.

Recommendation: DOE-FES and DOE-BES should develop a synergistic collaborative program to focus on the intersection of plasma and materials.

In addition to FES and BES, initiatives could be coordinated and funded between plasma-focused and materials-focused programs in federal agencies that would lead to advances in the science and technology of both fields.

Industry support could also be leveraged to stimulate fundamental research through public-private partnerships, for example, with the semiconductor industry. This public-private partnership could take the form of the federal government supporting more fundamental interdisciplinary research and industry co-funding more translational research.

Finding: The fundamental research performed in LTP is intrinsically interdisciplinary with societal benefits occurring most rapidly when that fundamental research is guided by applications.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: Although the NSF/DOE Partnership in Basic Plasma Science and Engineering is a strong supporter of LTP research, the translational and convergent nature of LTP research often transcends the scope of the NSF/DOE partnership.

Finding: Support for translational and convergent research in LTP by the NSF Engineering directorate has not been consistent, has not been long term and has not kept pace with the opportunities described in this report. Deliberate actions are needed to empower these interdisciplinary opportunities.

Recommendation: NSF-MPS and NSF-ENG, funded at a level of $6 million per year, should establish interdisciplinary and inter-directorate support for emerging low-temperature plasma science topics that lead to translational research.

Finding: Continuing initiatives like the DOE Low Temperature Plasma Science Center program will help sustain an internationally competitive LTP community in the United States.

Finding: LTP research at U.S. universities remains highly dispersed and it is not uncommon to find only one faculty member involved in LTP research in an entire university. This situation underlines the need for research networks and student training opportunities.

Finding: There are no multi-institutional, networking programs in the United States focused on LTPs. Training of a new generation of scientists in fundamental LTP science, including diagnostics and modeling, is a critical need for the coming 10 years, and would benefit from such programs.

Finding: Many U.S. PhD students working in the LTP field are trained with an exclusively application perspective. To sustain the field, more fundamental LTP science training opportunities for early career researchers are needed.

Recommendation: NSF should support low-temperature plasma research networks in the United States by providing funding for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to participate in exchanges between U.S. universities, and for international research experiences for junior scientists.

Finding: Fundamental research in LTP has declined in the United States over the last decade.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: The demographics in the LTP field show that the leadership class will retire within the next decade with an insufficient number of early career faculty available to assume leadership positions.

Finding: There are currently too few early career LTP-oriented faculty in the United States. The hiring of faculty within universities in the 21st century needs to be viewed from an interdisciplinary perspective that recognizes the intellectual diversity of a field that spans multiple colleges and departments and would benefit from investment by federal agencies.

Recommendation: To strengthen low-temperature plasma research at universities, NSF and DOE should establish specific programs that fund the creation of faculty positions similar to the NSF Faculty Development in Space Sciences program to address the urgency of losing key expertise and leadership in low-temperature plasma science over the next decade.

Finding: The vast majority of laboratories for the study of LTPs consist of tabletop-scale devices—often surrounded by a suite of diagnostic tools.

Finding: Based on its established track record, it is clear that the LTP community does not generally require nor is there demand for large, single purpose centralized user facilities having a single plasma source to make societal impact.

Finding: Leveraging the flexibility and interdisciplinarity of individual laboratories should be considered a valuable asset of the LTP community, rather than comparing that style of research to large facilities in other areas of plasma science, and declaring that mode of operation a weakness.

Finding: There is a need to support the flexibility and interdisciplinarity of individual LTP laboratories perhaps through a mix of user facilities concentrating on diagnostics and improving diagnostic and source capabilities in individual laboratories that could form a distributed user facility.

Recommendation: NSF and DOE should expand opportunities to develop and acquire diagnostics, plasma sources, numerical models, and reaction mechanisms in support of low-temperature plasmas science, perhaps through the NSF/DOE Partnership in Basic Plasma Science.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Chapter 6: Magnetic Confinement Fusion Energy

Finding: While the United States is still a major contributor to international MFE efforts and benefits from these collaborations, the U.S. program has lost ground and is at risk of losing leadership in several areas of MFE research.

Finding: The absence of a consensus strategic plan for fusion research in the United States is an important factor in our falling behind on international developments, a situation compounded by the lack of vetted designs for new experimental facilities.

Finding: A roadmap is needed that is enabled by new experimental MFE facilities in the United States with opportunities across a range of scales when appropriate.

Finding: To enable proper planning and to enable creation of a roadmap, ongoing feasibility and facility design activities are essential.

Recommendation: DOE-FES should undertake regular strategic planning, led by the U.S. magnetic confinement fusion energy community, as recommended in A Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019).

Recommendation: Aligning with A Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019), DOE-FES should develop a roadmap for the development of commercial fusion power in the United States.

Finding: Declining participation by universities in the MFE program reduces the level of innovation in the program and is a direct threat to the health of the field. It is essential that the MFE program respond to this crisis.

Finding: Renewing and growing new efforts at universities could be enabled by providing university researchers opportunities to participate in and, more importantly, lead the most important research programs in the field.

Finding: There is a need to grow efforts in fusion engineering and an opportunity exists to stimulate university programs in this area using both the indirect and direct mechanisms discussed above.

Recommendation: DOE-FES should structure funding opportunities in magnetic confinement fusion energy to provide leadership opportunities to university researchers and to directly stimulate the hiring of university faculty.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: A recent Office of Management and Budget decision targeted at limiting duplication in education and outreach programs in funding agencies caused the loss of discipline specific graduate fellowships and outreach programs in DOE Office of Science (SC).

Finding: These programs are important but lack the effectiveness of the former graduate fellowship and NUF program in attracting new talent into the MFE field.

Finding: The NUF program and the graduate fellowship could be used as a tool to enhance diversity within the MFE research community.

Recommendation: The DOE Office of Science should restore discipline-specific graduate fellowships and undergraduate research programs that support magnetic confinement fusion energy (MFE) research at U.S. universities as a vehicle for attracting new and diverse talent into mission-specific areas such as MFE, and for maintaining a presence in university science and engineering programs.

Finding: There has been significant growth in nontraditional support of MFE research—that is, support other than that provided by DOE-FES, including privately funded fusion companies, philanthropic organizations, and DOE-ARPA-E.

Finding: There is a danger that the knowledge base, including that generated by former DOE-FES-supported research, could become increasingly fragmented. Some challenges, for example the development of key technologies and materials, are similar even if the fusion configurations are distinct. Solving these challenges through separate efforts increases overall cost and timescales.

Recommendation: Federal agencies funding the development of magnetic confinement fusion energy science and technology (DOE-FES and DOEARPA-E) should leverage privately and philanthropically supported fusion research and vice versa.

Chapter 7: The Cosmic Plasma Frontier

Finding: A lack of support for basic code and simulation development, theory, and novel data-analysis techniques has long been a barrier to advancing our understanding of SAPs and predictive capabilities.

Finding: Unfortunately, the level of funding for the highly successful NSF/DOE Partnership in Basic Plasma Science and Engineering has lagged that recom-

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

mended by the 2000 Plasma Decadal Review, despite its very central role in discovery plasma science and its capacity to create effective multidisciplinary bridges within plasma science.

Recommendation: NASA should join the NSF/DOE Partnership in Basic Plasma Science and Engineering to expand interdisciplinary basic plasma research that would benefit space and astrophysical plasmas. This expanded partnership would leverage strategic contributions from each agency to enable breakthrough progress that benefits a wide range of plasma science and engineering activities (see Table 1, #3-#5).

Finding: Solar, heliospheric, magnetospheric, and ionospheric physics, and astrophysics have untapped synergies with laboratory plasma experiments, with the common goal of understanding ambient plasma conditions and chemistry.

Finding: Strategic funding from NASA and agencies supporting experimental facilities would enable more ambitious, innovative joint projects than a single source could support.

Recommendation: NASA and NSF should lead an effort with DoD (especially ONR and AFOSR), DOE, and other stake-holders (see Table 1, #6 and #24) to develop a collaborative program that enables space and astrophysical plasma scientists to collaborate with laboratory plasma experimentalists and advance both fields by leveraging their different needs and knowledge bases.

Finding: Clusters of cubesats and smallsats carrying in situ and remote-sensing instruments are the best observing platforms for tackling many basic unsolved questions of multiscale SAPs (e.g., reconnection, turbulence, and shocks), and provide essential research and training opportunities for university faculty and students.

Finding: Existing procedures for developing, building, and operating missions are traditionally geared toward large missions, and can pose unnecessary obstacles for single spacecraft and multiplatform missions employing smallsats and CubeSats.

Recommendation: With NASA and NSF as lead agencies, NASA, NSF, and DoD, as the primary sources of space missions, should explore avenues, including rideshares, international partners, and partnering with commercial launch providers, for reducing costs, lowering barriers, enabling higher-risk missions, and boosting launch opportunities for these pioneering investigations using CubeSats, smallsats, and clusters of these satellites. (See Table 1, #7.)

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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.
×

Finding: NSF, despite having a limited investment level in their Cubesat program, has broad access to universities and undergraduate and graduate students. This access may be important in providing basic training in PSE relevant to CubeSats. The recent solicitation for a cross-cutting NSF Ideas Lab Program focused on CubeSat innovations to push the envelope of space-based research capabilities is an example of one approach.

Recommendation: In view of their limited level of investment, NSF should identify a clearer role and “identity” in their CubeSat program that distinguishes it from its NASA counterpart. To ensure cost and resource efficiencies, NSF and NASA should coordinate further on funding opportunities.

Finding: Increased support is needed to meet the challenge of designing and constructing compact plasma and remote-sensing instrumentation suitable for Cubesats and smallsats.

Recommendation: Current NASA programs such as H-FORT, H-TIDES, and the Instrument Development Program should be augmented to meet the growing demand for compact plasma and remote-sensing instrumentation suitable for CubeSats and smallsats.

Finding: The SAP community needs to agree on data standards, formatting, and processing levels for publicly available data.

Recommendation: Federal agencies that support ground-based and international space facilities (NSF, NASA, DoD, NOAA) should adopt similar open data policies and minimize barriers to international collaboration except where national security is of concern.

Recommendation: NSF should convene a workshop co-sponsored by NASA and DoD to make recommendations for how to establish and maintain open data policies.

Recommendation: Once established, maintaining and updating the open data standards should be the responsibility of governing federal organization such as one of the major contributors (NASA, DoD, NOAA) or a more specialized agency for standards such as NIST.

Finding: A faculty partnership program introduced by NASA, NSF, and DOE—similar to that presented in the “Finding and Recommendations” section of Chapter 1 (see Table 1.1)—is needed to strengthen SAP hiring in universities and federal research facilities.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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:"Appendix B: Summary of Findings and Recommendations." 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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