Plasma Physics Group

This is an IOP special interest group, which is a community of IOP members focused on a particular discipline, application or area of interest. 

Special interest groups allow members to connect and share knowledge and ideas. The IOP funds groups to deliver a range of activities including events, prizes and bursaries. All of our groups are driven by members.  

 


About the group 

As a special interest, member-driven group, we promote the study of plasmas in the United Kingdom and Ireland. We encourage forums for the exchange of ideas across the broad range of plasmas in science and engineering.

More than 99% of material in the universe is ionized. On Earth, plasmas are used to produce most of our artificial light. Plasmas are essential to the semiconductor manufacturing industry and at the heart of the search for commercial energy from nuclear fusion.

Plasmas are ionized gases in which long-range electrical and magnetic interactions involving charged particles dominate over collisions between neutral species. 

Wide ranges of particle energies and particle densities are involved. Plasma physics spans densities and temperatures ranging from:

  • tenuous interstellar medium, to dense ablation plumes around the focal spots of high-power, short-pulse lasers
  • around a hundred million kelvin associated with nuclear fusion reactions, to a few thousand kelvin in maintaining the electrical conduction in gases

What the group does

Specific research areas include:

  • laser-plasma interactions
  • controlled thermonuclear fusion
  • electrical discharges for lamps and lighting
  • non-thermal plasmas for physical and chemical processing and analysis of materials
  • astrophysics and space physics including intergalactic and interstellar media, solar-terrestrial and magneto/iono-spheric plasmas

We have common interests with the:

  • Computational Physics Group
  • Medical Physics Group
  • Atomic and Molecular Interactions Group
  • Particle Accelerators and Beams Group
  • other learned and professional bodies including the Royal Astronomical Society, the S3 Group and the Institution of Engineering and Technology 

Student bursaries

We award student bursaries to attend non-IOP plasma meetings including the UK Technological Plasma Workshop.

With the UK Atomic Energy Authority we offer an annual prize for the best thesis in plasma physics submitted to a UK or Irish university.

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    Group prizes

    Culham Thesis Prize

    This annual prize is for excellence in the scientific method recognised by the award of a Doctor of Philosophy degree in plasma science from a UK or Irish university in the last two years. 

    Find out more about the Culham Thesis Prize.

    The Malcolm Haines Prize for an early career physicist

    This prize is awarded once every two years to an early career physicist. The award recognises early researchers for one or more of the following:

    • outstanding research
    • innovation
    • leadership 

    Find out more about the Malcolm Haines Prize for an early career physicist.

    Poster Prize

    This prize is for the best poster presented by a student at our annual conference. Prizes are £50. 

    The judges are two eminent scientists who look for:

    • considered use of the scientific method
    • a good balance between text and figures
    • a strong theme running through the poster leading to firm conclusions

    Each candidate is asked:

    • to emphasise the key points
    • for a brief description of the work
    • questions to clarify issues and examine the broader context of the research

    The decision of the judges is announced at the annual conference dinner.

    Rutherford Plasma Physics Communication Prize

    This prize is for excellence in the communication of plasma physics to non-experts. It recognises outreach work with the general public.

    Find out more about the Rutherford Plasma Physics Communication Prize.

    Physics resources 

    View IOP public engagement and outreach resources.

    Find resources and how to keep in touch with science communication and outreach events at the British Science Association, the UK's open membership organisation to discuss and challenge the sciences.

    Make quick calculations to support your student or scientist research with the Warwick Plasma Calculator, which has web-based interactive tools for plasma physics education and research.

    Speakers

    Contact the Royal Astronomical Society for a list of speakers that includes space and astro plasma speakers.

    Invite or volunteer as a speaker at Speakezee

    Email group secretary Dr Josie Coltman Josie.Coltman@awe.co.uk to invite a speaker to your event or include resources here.

    Group events

    Find group events on the IOP events site.

    Newsletters

    Useful links

    • Cafe Scientifique: For the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, you can explore the latest ideas in science and technology. Events all over the country are a way to communicate your science to a friendly public audience. 
    • I’m a Scientist: School students have the opportunity to talk online with scientists and vote for their favourite scientist in an X-Factor-style competition. Winners are awarded £500 to spend on a communication based project.
    • STEM Learning Ambassadors: Brings scientists and young people together in the classroom. Sign up as a STEM ambassador, find your local area contact and learn how get a free DBS check for your ambassador activities.
    • Science and Technology Facilities Council: For the latest news and funding opportunities, and STFC supported communication and outreach activities.

    Committee and contacts