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Title: On the utility of non thermal plasmas
Authors: Hay, Michael James
Advisors: Fisch, Nathaniel J
Contributors: Plasma Physics Department
Subjects: Plasma physics
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Nonthermal plasmas have properties which can differ substantially even from thermal plasmas of the same density and energy. In practical applications, many of these differences have utility that can be exploited, often with waves. The goal of this thesis is to explore three such applications of nonthermal plasma for the purposes of wave amplification and, ultimately, controlled nuclear fusion. First, we discuss the outstanding potential for a shaped plasma technology that relies on ionizing a beam of aerosol particles. This ionization results in a Coulomb explosion, yielding a highly nonthermal distribution for the plasma in the target volume. Homogeneous, high aspect ratio plasma couplers such as these could be used in a Raman amplification scheme to attain the next generation of laser intensities. Such a powerful laser could be used to study radiation reaction and vacuum pair production, among many other applications. We describe the conditions under which sufficiently dense aerosol beams can be prepared and provide some experimental validation of these claims. Second, we survey the prospects for controlled p-11B fusion in both magnetic and inertial confinement schemes. Whereas most studies have focused on mitigating the bremsstrahlung loss channel, we focus on nonthermal manipulations of the bulk plasma which could improve the reactivity. In particular, we present upper bounds on the p-11B reactivity using alpha channeling to efficiently heat the proton distribution in both schemes. Finally, we place a sharp limit on the energy that can be extracted from a non-thermal particle distribution using waves. In the quasilinear regime of wave-particle interaction, waves rearrange the densities of states in phase space in a diffusive fashion. A salient consequence is that only certain, generally nonthermal, plasma states can be reached. We characterize this restricted state space and thereby reduce the problem of maximizing energy extraction to linear programming. Varying the connectedness of the phase space so that e.g. particles may only be diffused to parts of phase space close in energy, we describe the implications for the state space and the solution of the optimization problem.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Plasma Physics

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