Dusty Plasmas and a Review of the Research at Oxford University
Ticos, Catalin M., and Smith, Paul W., (2006) Dusty Plasmas and a Review of the Research at Oxford University. Jurnal Fizik Malaysia, 27 (1). pp. 1-7. ISSN 0128-0333
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University of Oxford. Dept. of Engineering Science.
It is almost 10 years since the first observation of dusty plasma crystals was first reported by Hubertus Thomas at the Max Plank Institut  based on the theoretical prediction of their existence first made by Hiro Ikezi  at General Atomics in 1986. Yet, despite considerable research activity in the field of dusty plasmas, the nature of the binding forces which lead to crystal formation are not fully understood. Dusty plasmas, sometimes referred to as complex plasmas, are multi-component plasmas which, in addition to electrons and ions, contain micron sized particles. In such plasmas the particles will suspend in the sheath regions of RF driven low pressure plasmas where the local electric field is strong enough to balance the downwards gravitational force. Here they can form both fluid and crystalline structures. The particles are charged due to the interaction with electrons and ions and thus form an additional component to the plasma which interact with the plasma through their screened Coulomb potentials. Thus it is possible to study an entirely new area of plasma physics in which the particles act as a type of isolated probe within a low pressure plasma. Research on this phenomenon has been active for many years in Oxford with the prime objective of achieving a better understanding of the nature of the forces which bind the particles together. This paper will review this work and discuss, in particular, recent experiments carried out to measure the charge on the dust particles and new observations of nonlinear dust particle oscillations observed on two and three particle assemblies.
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