Topic outline

  • Plasma is the fourth and most common state of matter in our cosmos. Our direct contacts with plasma are still -- fortunately -- few and far apart. However, since e.g., modern tele communication is based on basic properties of plasmas, and fusion energy could help slow down the climate change, learning some basics of this peculiar state of matter is not only interesting but also useful.

    In this course the student will be introduced to plasma, a gas consisting of electrically charged particles, which makes its properties dramatically different from those of the more familiar states of matter: the free charges interact via Coulomb force that has, in principle, infinite range. This allows plasma to display a host of interesting collective phenomena, the most useful and intriguing of which  will be introduced in this course. The plasma will be treated predominantly with the magnetohydrodynamic description, the foundations of which will be outlined.

    After the course the students should have a basic understanding of plasma phenomenology, so that they can explain, e.g., how the radio waves propagate in the earth's atmosphere, and how a fusion plasma with a temperature of 100 million degrees can be controlled in laboratory conditions. 


  • The course extends for the entire Fall semester with the idea that during the first period the foundations are laid, the relevant concepts become familiar, and the required mathematical tools are sharpened. In the second period we already go to plasmas of interest, i.e., mainly to space plasmas around the Earth and fusion plasmas for energy production.

    The *preliminary* outline of the course is below, but it might be altered according to the needs of attending students.

    1. What exactly is plasma? 4.9.
    2. Charged particles in simple electric and magnetic fields 11.9.
    3. Plasma as a statistical system 18.9.
    4. Plasma as a fluid 25.9.
    5. Plasma dynamics: electrostatic waves 2.10.
    6. Plasma dynamics: electromagnetic waves 9.10
    7. Collisions and transport in weakly ionized plasmas 23.10.
    8. Collisions and transport in fully ionized plasmas 30.10.
    9. Stuff in toroidal geometry 6.11.
    10. Plasma (in-) stability 13.11.
    11. Significance of plasma physics now and in the future: "Heavenly" plasmas 20.11.
    12. Significance of plasma physics now and in the future: "Earthly" plasmas 27.11.

  • By far, the most appropriate written material for this course is:

    F. Chen: Introduction to Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, Vol. 1 "Plasma Physics"

    (Vol. 2, "Controlled Fusion" was not, unfortunately, ever published. )

    Other, very useful material:

    Wesson: Tokamaks
    This is the "Bible" for fusion plasma physics: in contains 'everything'. However, it is NOT a textbook but, rather, a reference document.

    Fitzpatrik: Lecture-notes-manuscript
    Well written text on basic plasma physics but generally with more advanced math. However, strongly recommended supplementary reading with discretion. PDF attached with author's permission.

    Karttunen: Plasmafysiikan perusteet
    Most appropriate for this course but written in Finnish. Scanned copy attached.

    Koskinen: Johdatus plasmafysiikkaan ja sen avaruussovelluksiin

    Other useful material: