UW Aeronautics & Astronautics is a leader in plasma science, focusing on achieving a stable fusion reaction that might one day be a sustainable source for clean energy and deep space propulsion.
Our labs boast some of the most innovative approaches to this challenge. The Z-pinch process uses an electric current to magnetically confine, compress, and heat a long cylinder of flowing plasma. By eliminating the need for magnetic field coils, this design suggests that fusion power can be harnessed in a low-mass system that would be far more accessible, cost-effective, and versatile than previously imagined. The UW ‘Dynomak’ reactor creates a magnetic field within a closed space to hold plasma in place long enough for fusion to occur then recycles the heat to be largely self-sustaining. The SPACE Lab focuses on theoretical modeling and innovative experiment design to explore the plasma physics of electric thrusters and other space technologies.
Key research areas
- Computational Plasma Dynamics
- Fusion Energy
- Finite Element Methods
- Electric / Space Propulsion
- Plasma Physics and Science
- Small Satellites and Space Systems
The FuZE Lab measured a sustained nuclear fusion for the first time from a Z-pinch by using flows to stabilize plasma, a potential route for low-cost fusion in the future.
Collaborating with the UW eScience Institute, A&A will be applying data science methods to optimize the performance of an electric propulsion system.
A&A’s Charlie Kelly won a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship for his research on “Revolutionizing Orbit Insertion with Magnetoshell Aerocapture.”
Professor Uri Shumlak has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society for pioneering investigations of sheared flow stabilization in the Z-pinch.