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Plasma Physics and Pulsed Power for Energy and Life. Effects and Applications in Living Matter and Materials

Plasma is a matter state that depending on the experimental way to produce it allows to obtain a wide range of densities and temperatures (1013 to 1026 particles per cubic meter and 10-1 to 105 eV). In addition, it can produce electric field, magnetic field, x rays, UV radiation, visible light, infrared radiation, particles beams (electrons, ions), neutrons, plasma jets, shock waves and heat waves. The consequences of this extreme matter state have numerous applications, beyond of the interesting basic science of plasmas. The most common way to create plasma in a laboratory is by means of electrical discharges in gases, either continuous or pulsed.

In a previous "Anillo" project, "Plasma physics, pulsed power and cell biology for energy life, and environment" the following achievements were obtained: a) The plasma dynamics before and after the pinch phase in table top and miniaturized plasma focus devices was experimentally characterized. Plasma filaments were studies before de pinch, and plasma shocks and plasma jets after the pinch [1-3]. b) It was found that the damage factor produced by the axial plasma shock on material samples has the same value than the expected in the first wall of the future largest experiments on nuclear fusion (both magnetic and inertial confinement), like ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, Europe, USA, China, Japan, India, among other), IFE-NIF (Inertial Fusion Experiment at the National Ignition Facility, USA) and HiPER project (High Power laser Energy Research facility, Europe) [2]. c) The axial plasma shock was used to study the effects in candidate materials for the first wall of fusion reactors: tungsten and nano-structured tungsten [4]. d) The effects of pulsed radiation on materials were studied by means of simulations and computational tools. For this, an important synergistic work between experimental and theoretical physicists was established. e) The effect of plasma and pulsed X-rays (from plasma focus devices) on cancer cell viability was evaluated and encouraging results were found. To accomplish this, an important synergistic work between physicist and biologist groups was established [5, 6], f) A line research on plasmas generated by continuous and RF discharges was stablished [7-9]. A high power plasma torch was designed and constructed, as well as low power micro and needle plasma torches. Applications to materials, and biology were explored as well as the use the high power plasma torch for hospital waste treatment was conceptually evaluated and projected.

It is remarkable that in the three years of duration of the previous Anillo project, "Plasma physics, pulsed power and cell biology for energy life, and environment", was possible to stablished a real collaboration and synergetic work between physicists (both experimental and theoretical) and biologist. This is a very important achievement that should not be missed.

The aim of the present research is to go in depth the research in plasma physics, pulsed power, and applications to materials and living matter developed during the last decade at the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CCHEN) and in the last years in collaboration with biologists of the University of Chile. In particular, research related to biology and medicine using plasmas and pulsed power and applications related to energy and environment will be deepened. This approach includes the following research, objectives and activities: