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Plasma Science

We lead plasma science research, 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

Associated faculty

Research highlights

members of the FuZE Lab

FuZE Experiments

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.

Electric propulsion systems 

Collaborating with the UW eScience Institute, A&A will be applying data science methods to optimize the performance of an electric propulsion system.

Award highlights

Charlie Kelly

NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship

A&A’s Charlie Kelly won a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship for his research on “Revolutionizing Orbit Insertion with Magnetoshell Aerocapture.”

Uri Shumlak

American Physical Society Fellow

Professor Uri Shumlak has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society for pioneering investigations of sheared flow stabilization in the Z-pinch.

Related News

KUOW logo and Chris Hansen photo

Thu, 12/15/2022 | KUOW

A step closer to a new form of renewable energy: Nuclear fusion

A&A’s Chris Hansen speaks with KUOW on what fusion energy is and the significance of the milestone at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Uri Shumlak

Tue, 12/13/2022

Uri Shumlak elevated to 2023 IEEE Fellow

IEEE elevated Uri Shumlak to Fellow for research of sheared flow stabilization of the Z pinch for fusion energy.

blue and green plasma flow Illustration

Tue, 03/01/2022

NSF invests in UW’s plasma modeling

The National Science Foundation invests in our labs to advance plasma modeling for propulsion and cleaner energy.

Chris Hansen

Sat, 11/06/2021 | GeekWire

The buzz about fusion energy: Expert explains industry’s ‘reinvigoration’ as tech attracts VC dollars

A&A’s Chris Hansen talks fusion energy with GeekWire, discussing the current industry state as VC dollars flood in.