Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
LOW-TEMPERATURE PLASMAS 45 indispensable for the manufacture of VLSI microelectronic circuits (or chips). Plasma processing of materials is also a critical technology in the aerospace, automotive, steel, biomedical, and toxic waste management industries. Because plasma processing is an integral part of the infrastructure of so many American industries, it is important for both the economy and the national security that the United States maintain a strong leadership role in this technology. As in the case of other disciplines that use low-temperature plasmas, there is no centralized agency that takes responsibility for R&D for this area. The NRC plasma processing study determined that there are approximately 14 agencies within the federal government that invest approximately $17 million in plasma process science and technology. It concluded that this funding was inadequate and uncoordinated, given the impact of this vital area on the country. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Conclusions Low-temperature plasma science has significantly improved the quality of our lives. These contributions will continue by providing solutions to several present and future problems and by preserving our industrial base and providing challenging opportunities in the post-Cold War era. Examples of technical areas that will benefit from low-temperature plasmas include the plasma processing of materials, environmental cleanup, "cold" sterilization of medical products, "cold" pasteurization of food, advanced imaging devices that can be used in medicine and in the detection of explosives and drugs, and isotope separation. Research in low-temperature plasmas has decreased substantially, primarily because the largest source of funding, the federal government, has had a shrinking budget for such activities in the last several years. Research has also been adversely affected by the recent recession and a general move of large U.S. companies to divest themselves of manufacturing. The shrinking budgets of the last few years have resulted in a sharp decrease in the population of scientists working in low-temperature plasma science. The supply of PhD-level scientists would be sufficient to reverse this trend, if funding were available. If this trend is not reversed, the United States will be creating a future problem. Recommendations To fully exploit the potential of low-temperature plasma science and maximize its impact on the many relevant technological applications, the panel recommends that one agency within the government be given the responsibility for coordinating research in low-temperature plasma science. Given the multidisciplinary nature of the field, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and
LOW-TEMPERATURE PLASMAS 46 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are possible candidate agencies for this responsibility. The panel recommends that the responsible agency focus on funding low- temperature plasma science. Such projects would include the physics and chemistry of the plasma sheath; plasma stability; electrodeless plasma production; magnetic field effects on plasmas; improved diagnostics to help understand surface and sheath effects and plasma stability; energy and charge transfer from plasmas to particulates; and improved utilization of computers.