Antonsen, Thomas M. Jr.
Electrical and Computer Engineering; Physics
A. James Clark School of Engineering; Computer, Math. & Physical Sciences
Professor Antonsen's research interests include the theory of magnetically confined plasmas, the theory and design of high power sources of coherent radiation, nonlinear dynamics in fluids, and the theory of the interaction of intense laser pulses and plasmas. These topics bear directly on the international effort to achieve controlled nuclear fusion.
Controlled nuclear fusion is the ultimate forward-looking energy source. A controlled nuclear fusion reactor would provide large-scale electrical power using the energy that is released by the fusion of isotopes of hydrogen. This is the same source of power at work in the sun. Achieving controlled fusion thus requires that the fuel be heated to such a high level that it becomes a plasma. The two basic approaches to controlled fusion involve confining the plasma by a system of magnetic fields (magnetic confinement) or compressing the plasma by irradiating it with laser or particle beams (inertial confinement).
In the first case, Professor Antonsen has studied the stability of various plasma configurations, and investigated the development of turbulence in the plasma that can lead to loss of energy confinement. Additionally, he has developed a method for evaluating the efficiency by which microwaves that are injected into and absorbed by the plasma can be used to create the magnetic fields needed to confine the plasma. Finally, these microwaves are produced by devices known as gyrotrons. Professor Antonsen has developed a computer code that is used by the US industry to design gyrotrons for fusion applications.
In the second case, Professor Antonsen has studied the propagation of intense laser pulses and electron beams in plasmas. The basic processes are important to the success of inertial confinement fusion as the laser pulses or particle beams used to compress the fusion fuel must propagate through a low-density plasma before reaching their target.