Dusty plasmas are ionized gases in which charged multi-particle systems can be affected by electric and magnetic fields. They are found in a wide range of settings, from astrophysics to semiconductor manufacturing. In general, plasmas are sometimes referred to as the fourth state of matter, because of their high temperature and charge mobility. Dusty plasmas, however, force us to revisit our notion of states of matter given the wide range of temperatures and particle sizes. These can vary typically from 0.01 to 1 eV and 0.1 to 10 eV for the temperature of ions and electrons, respectively, and have charged micron-sized particles with room temperature, all coexisting and interacting in the same system.
In the laboratory, it is possible to create strongly coupled dusty plasmas that form crystalline arrays. These arrays fall in the realm of soft matter and exist within a background plasma that is dilute, resulting in practically undamped dynamics that allows for direct emulation and measurement of atomistic dynamics in solids. At UMBC, a new experimental facility is under construction that will allow us to create dusty plasmas in fluid or crystal form. The setup includes electrodes with adjustable separation and orientation with respect to gravity. The ability to add magnetic fields as high as 10 Tesla is under design. Planned experiments with dusty plasmas include: studies of friction of coefficient in crystals; compression, tension, and shock dynamics; waves with oscillating boundary conditions; and response to fast (> 10 eV) electrons penetrating the crystal lattice.
Location: Physics Bldg., Room 401