Producing beams of ions from low temperature plasma sources (plasma strand project)

Supervisor/s  – James Dedrick, Chris Ridgers & Erik Wagenaars (University of York)

Non-equilibrium, low-pressure plasmas can provide ion sources critical to external heating of magnetic confined fusion reactors by underpinning the production of energetic neutral beams [1]. They are also integral to the propulsion of satellites, e.g. gridded-ion thrusters [2]. At higher pressure these plasmas have medical applications through the novel chemistry they create.

This project will combine experiments and simulations of non-equilibrium plasmas to enhance our understanding of the physics mechanisms that drive plasma production and ion-beam extraction, which can enable the development of new concepts for reactor design and power delivery. There are also possibilities to explore related fields such as the the plasma chemistry in higher pressure systems.

Based at the University of York, this project will incorporate experimental measurements combined with simulations, for example fully kinetic particle-in-cell simulations to self-consistently capture fundamental parameters such as the electron and ion energy distribution that are critical to understanding the plasma conditions that underpin ion-beam formation.

This project presents an exciting opportunity for skills training:

  • Experimental: design campaigns, operate plasma sources, and undertake advanced optical and electrical diagnostics.
  • Computational: Operate state-of-art plasma simulations (particle-in-cell and hybrid fluid-kinetic), analyse experimental data and develop chemical-kinetic reaction sets.
  • Communication: lead preparation of peer-reviewed journal articles, present results at national and international conferences, and develop research collaborations.

Image: ELISE negative ion source developed for neutral-beam heating for magnetic confined fusion, including radio-frequency (rf) plasma driver and ion-extraction grids. Reproduced from Ref. 1.


  1. Fantz, Wünderlich, Riedl, Heinemann and Bonomo. Achievement of the ITER NBI ion source parameters for hydrogen at the test facility ELISE and present Status for deuterium. Fusion Engineering and Design, 156 111609 (2020)
  2. Lafleur and Rafalskyi. Radio-frequency biasing of ion acceleration grids. Plasma Sources Science and Technology 27 125004 (2018)

This project will be mainly based in York, and includes opportunities to collaborate with international partners in, e.g. France, Australia and United States, and to present research findings at national and international conferences.

This project is offered by The University of York. For further information please contact: James Dedrick (

This project is not compatible with part time study.