Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Plasma and lasers

Research into both high temperature, high density plasmas magnetically confined or laser produced, and low temperature, low density plasmas.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This area covers research into high temperature, high density plasmas which are either magnetically confined or produced by high power lasers. It includes development of novel laser systems, laser physics and the understanding of lasering mechanisms. In addition, it encompasses work into low temperature, low density discharge or atmospheric plasmas (technological plasmas). Part of this research area overlaps with the Light Matter Interactions and Optical Phenomena area.

We will continue to preserve excellence in high-quality fundamental science in this research area. This will continue to underpin related areas (such as Light Matter Interactions), but also feed into and inform activities with academia and industry in parts of our wider portfolio, including Energy and Manufacturing the Future – encouraging further interdisciplinary work.

We will continue to strengthen links to industry to ensure high impact in many sectors, including energy, defence and manufacturing, with opportunities actively being explored to foster collaborations between researchers in academia and industry.

The development of researchers will continue, echoing the amount of training supported in the current portfolio and the wish to have young researchers with particular skills and expertise in this field, which is relevant to the nuclear energy industry, for example. It is also envisaged that support of established research groups will be maintained to retain UK capability.

Researchers will continue to maintain good working interactions with relevant national facilities, especially the Central Laser Facility (CLF), the Orion Laser at AWE and the upgraded Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST-U) at Culham, reflecting the significant proportion of the community that makes use of them. Sharing of facilities at all levels, from local and national to international, will be important in the constrained capital environment.

Why we're doing it

The UK has several key research groups working in this area, with a good balance of activity and spread of investments. The majority of work is investigator-led research, but there has been a steady increase in growth of capability which reflects the strength of this research area in the UK.

Outputs from their work contribute to a wide range of sectors, including nuclear energy where researchers are world-leading in inertial confinement fusion (ICF) and magnetic confinement fusion (MCF). Defence, manufacturing and biomedicine have also benefitted. Financial support from industry is low, however, as many relevant applications for the research are more long-term. Individuals from industry and the research community need to work together to drive technological advances and allow the research to progress so the potential is realised.

There is a robust level of support for training in this area which should be continued and reflects the importance of its input both to numerous other research areas and to several industries.

The research remains capital-intensive with significant requirements for specialist equipment and access to national facilities such as the Central Laser Facility (CLF) and Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST-U), in addition to access to facilities in the US, Asia and Europe. It is recognised that the CLF has played a critical role in the development of plasma accelerator based research in the UK, while MAST-U has enabled researchers to gain international recognition for advances in fundamental magnetically confined plasma science.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Plasma and Lasers.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 19 June 2024

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