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ODU-led Team Wins NSF Grant for Laser Plasma Research Project

A team of researchers led by Hani Elsayed-Ali, Eminent Scholar and professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of Old Dominion University's Applied Research Center (ARC), has won a highly competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for a laser plasma research project.

The $475,000 grant, "Spark-Assisted Laser Multicharged Ion Source," builds on the work he and former doctoral student Ayed Nassef did at ARC several years ago.

Elsayed-Ali and Nassef's research demonstrated that coupling of the spark discharge with the laser plasma results in multicharged ion production, even though very low energy laser pulses are used. In layman's terms, the spark discharge acts as a well-synchronized, relatively inexpensive amplification stage for plasma density and temperature. Nassef is now a faculty member at Cairo University.

The NSF funding will allow ARC to recruit students to develop a device to produce multicharged ions. In the senior design project, the students will design and construct a laser-triggered spark discharge, which will significantly amplify the energy deposited in laser-produced plasma.

This new technology is expected to enhance the production of highly charged ions, and reduce equipment cost and size compared to currently available ion sources. Highly charged ions carry substantial potential energy, which could be considerably more than the ion kinetic energy. The multicharged ion interaction involves the release of this potential energy, in addition to its kinetic energy.

The multicharged ion source to be constructed at ODU will be used for fabricating materials for nanoelectronics. Multicharged ions can also be used in medical applications, such as in carbon ion radiotherapy.

Through participation in the project, students will gain expertise in pulsed power, vacuum systems, ion-beam technology, design of ion transport systems, ion-beam surface processing and lasers.

Elsayed-Ali's co-principal investigators on the project include fellow ODU faculty members Gon Namkoong and Helmet Baumgart from the electrical and computer engineering department. Other PIs are faculty members from the University of Quebec, along with former ODU faculty member Juergen Kolb of the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology in Germany, the largest non-university institute in the area of low-temperature plasmas in Europe.

ODU's Applied Research Center, an enterprise center of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, consists of an interdisciplinary team of researchers working on scientific and technological problems in the areas of thin films, laser and plasma applications, materials technology, and the emerging fields of nanotechnology, biomedical engineering and sensor science and technology. Projects at the center are sponsored by federal agencies, the commonwealth of Virginia, and various industries and national research labs.

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