Skip to main content

Center Facilities

PHASMA experiment
The primary experimental facility in the Center is the PHAse Space MApping (PHASMA) experiment. Two plasma guns in PHASMA create channels of plasma called flux ropes that merge through a process known as magnetic reconnection.

PHASMA has the unique capability of performing direct in situ, non-perturbative, three-dimensional measurements of ion velocity and electron velocity distribution functions at kinetic scales in space-relevant plasmas.

A velocity distribution measurement is a measurement of the entire range of speeds of all the particles of one of the species in the plasma, i.e., ions or electrons. From the velocity distribution function measurement, it is possible to calculate the density, average flow, and temperature of each species. The plasmas in which these measurements are to be performed are specifically designed to reflect key properties of plasmas that occur naturally in outer space. 

Two flux ropes image
Two flux ropes
plasma from a single plasma gun
Plasma from a single plasma gun.

PHASMA combined existing apparatus and diagnostics with new components to create a unique new facility for plasma research at West Virginia University and major construction was completed in 2019.