Plasma Physics: Applications

Learn about plasma applications from nuclear fusion powering the sun, to making integrated circuits, to generating electricity.

There is one session available:

6,821 already enrolled! After a course session ends, it will be archived.
Starts May 18
Estimated 10 weeks
5–6 hours per week
Progress at your own speed

About this course

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This physics course, taught by world-renowned experts in the field, will provide you with an overview of applications in plasma physics. From the study of far distant astrophysical objects, over diverse applications in industry and medicine, to the ultimate goal of sustainable electricity generation from nuclear fusion.

In the first part of this course, you will learn how nuclear fusion powers our Sun and the stars in the Universe. You will explore the cyclic variation of the Sun’s activity, how plasma flows can generate large-scale magnetic fields, and how these fields can reconnect to release large amounts of energy, manifested, for instance, by violent eruptions on the Sun.

The second part of this course discusses the key role of plasma applications in industry and introduces the emerging field of plasma medicine. You will learn in detail how plasmas are generated and sustained in strong electric fields, why plasmas are indispensable for the manufacturing of today’s integrated circuits, and what the prospects are of plasma treatments in cancerology, dentistry and dermatology.

In the third and most extensive part of this course, you will familiarize yourself with the different approaches to fusion energy, the current status, and the necessary steps from present-day experimental devices towards a fusion reactor providing electricity to the grid. You will learn about the key ingredients of a magnetic fusion reactor, how to confine, heat, and control fusion plasmas at temperatures of 100 million degrees Kelvin, explore the challenges of plasma wall interactions and structural materials, and the importance of superconductivity.

Finally, in the fourth part of this course, you will learn about laser-created plasmas and the interaction between plasmas and high-power laser pulses. Applications range from energy production by thermonuclear fusion to laboratory astrophysics, creation of intense sources of high-energy particle and radiation beams, and fundamental studies involving high-field quantum electrodynamics.

To enjoy this course on plasma applications, it is recommended to first familiarize yourself with the plasma physics basics taught in Plasma Physics: Introduction.

At a glance

  • Institution: EPFLx
  • Subject: Engineering
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Prerequisites:
    • General physics (electricity and magnetism)
    • Vector calculus
    • Completion of PlasmaIntroductionX recommended
  • Language: English

What you'll learn

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  • Different applications of plasmas
  • Understanding of the fusion energy challenge, and acquisition of the basis for developing an overall vision of the different R&D elements
  • Understanding of the main plasma societal applications and relevant tools
  • Vision and appreciation of the importance of plasmas in space and astrophysics
  • By solving problems in course content, you will acquire some basic knowledge of MATLAB programming
  • Week 1: Plasmas in space and astrophysics
  • Week 2: Plasma applications in industry and medicine
  • Week 3: Thermonuclear fusion: an overview
  • Week 4: Thermonuclear fusion: magnetic confinement
  • Week 5: Thermonuclear fusion: magnetic confinement II
  • Week 6: Laser-plasma interaction

Learner testimonials

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“Thank you all for taking the time to make this course available. It has been a very valuable opportunity.The printable slides have been very helpful. I very much appreciated the balance between fundamentalsand real world applications, especially with respect to the TCV tokamak which I knew virtually nothingabout prior to the course.”

About the instructors

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners from one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.