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Plasma Science and Engineering

Plasma science and engineering (PSE) is the discipline investigating fundamental transport and reaction chemistry of partially ionized gases and their application to technologies ranging from lighting sources, lasers and sensors to materials processing, biotechnology, microelectronics fabrication and space sciences.

PSE has incredibly broad and strategic impact on national and economic security, and providing societal benefit. Modern microelectronic devices could not be fabricated in the absence of plasma etching, deposition and cleaning processes. Thin film solar cell technologies depend upon plasma deposition to be economically viable. Fabrication of biotechnology devices depends on plasma processes to harden artificial joints and prepare biocompatible surfaces on tissue scaffolding. Interplanetary probes are powered by plasma thrusters.

Although focused on applications, PSE is also rich in fundamental science challenges. The recently released National Research Council report Plasma Science: Advancing Knowledge in the National Interest identifies key science challenges, including: a) basic interactions of plasmas with organic materials and living tissue, b) quantifying the behavior of plasmas that contain chaotic and stochastic processes, c) very high power density plasmas and microplasmas, and d) stability of very large area and high pressure plasmas.