Osthoff Plasma Physics Prize awarded

Outstanding achievements in plasma physics / scientists from Bochum University and IPP honoured

July 06, 2009
The Hans Werner Osthoff Plasma Physics Prize is equally shared in 2009 by Dr. Jan Benedikt, Bochum University, and Dr. Philipp Lauber, Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching. The prize is awarded for outstanding achievements in the field of plasma physics and is particularly directed at supporting junior scientists. The prize, endowed with 4,000 euros, is to be presented on 13 July 2009 at an academic ceremony at Greifswald University.

Dr. Philipp Lauber (born in 1973) from Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching has acquired an international reputation for further developing a model with which perturbations in fusion plasmas can be computed. The computation code he developed is particularly important for predicting the behaviour of the plasma in the ITER (Latin for "the way") international test reactor. On the way to a power plant that derives energy from fusion of atomic nuclei like the sun ITER is to produce a burning fusion fire for the first time. The fuel is an ionised low-density hydrogen gas, called "plasma". To ignite the energy-yielding fusion reactions the plasma has to be confined in magnetic fields, thermally insulated, and heated to temperatures of over 100 million degrees. With ITER special instabilities are expected to occur for the first time with the self-heating of the plasma – this being due to the fast helium particles produced in the fusion process. They could impair confinement of the plasma and reduce the fusion yield. Lauber’s model now allows the resulting perturbations to be clarified and predicted – an invaluable aid in planning ITER experiments. The sophisticated computation method is based on the motions of the individual particles in the magnetically confined plasma and fits them together to provide a comprehensive description of the entire plasma. The high performance of the model has already been confirmed in the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Garching and in JET at Culham, U.K. Philipp Lauber and his students are now extending the code to include other classes of instabilities.

The technical plasmas with which the second prize-winner is concerned are much colder than fusion plasmas. Dr. Jan Benedikt (born in 1976) is receiving the Hans Werner Osthoff Plasma Physics Prize for his contributions to research on the chemical principles of various low-temperature plasmas. His discoveries are helping to utilise plasmas for technical applications. His scientific research in the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy at the Ruhr University of Bochum was first directed at plasmas containing acetylene, which are involved in many technical applications. He has applied a large number of different diagnostic methods to investigate their reaction chemistry. He was able, for example, to clarify how very hard carbon films can form or how dust particles can be produced in these plasmas in a controlled manner. Such methods are being used in the automobile and optics industries for surface finishing. At present Jan Benedikt is concerned with developing microplasmas for coating purposes. These special plasmas involve chemical non-equilibrium reactions at atmospheric pressure that are otherwise only possible with low-pressure plasmas. Microplasmas afford major application potential for the future if high-grade surface finishes can be deposited without elaborate vacuum equipment. Examples are diffusion barriers composed of glass-like layers with which plastics or organic electronics can be encapsulated.

The Hans Werner Osthoff Plasma Physics Prize was endowed in 1994 by Professor Dr. Hans Werner Osthoff in remembrance of his studies at Greifswald, on the occasion of the founding of the Greifswald branch of IPP. Awards are decided on recommendations from colleagues in the particular field by the foundation’s advisory board in conjunction with members of the Osthoff family, Ernst-Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, Leibniz Institute of Plasma Research and Technology at Greifswald, and Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics at Garching and Greifswald.

Isabella Milch

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