Course syllabus


Plasma physics with applications (RRY085 / ASM440) HT19 lp1  (7.5 hp)

Course is coordinated by the Department of Space, Earth and Environment, and the Department of Physics

Contact details


Pär Strand, ED4410, 


Markus Held, ED4408,  

Tünde Fülöp, S3036,

Istvan Pusztai, S3033,

General information

The course aims at developing a physical understanding for the characteristic properties of plasmas, including how they can be created and where they appear. An important part of the course is to illustrate plasma physics concepts and phenomena by considering applications ranging from fusion energy generation to space physics and astrophysics.

The course consists of two lectures per week, during which theory is presented and exercise problems are solved. In total five sets of compulsory home problems will be distributed, which will be a part of the examination (the other part being an oral exam, see below).



Course literature

The course is largely based on the book Basic Plasma Physics, Theory and Applications by Anderson et al. that closely follows the Introduction to Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion by F. F. Chen, but it is more detailed. It will be handed out free of charge during the first lecture and uploaded to the course website in PDF format. Additional material (lecture notes and slides, book references, etc.) will be handed out during the lectures and published online.

Course design


Mondays 13:15 – 15:00 in ES52 and Thursdays 10:00 – 11:45 in ES52 in study weeks 1-5 and 7, Fridays 13:15-15:00 in study week 5 and 6.



  • Introduction: Definition, occurrence and characteristics of plasmas
  • Applications: Typical plasma devices and their usage
  • Plasma descriptions: Single particle motion, kinetic theory, fluid models
  • Magnetohydrodynamics: Equilibria and stability
  • Waves in plasmas, Landau damping
  • Diffusive transport
  • Select applications in fusion energy



The examination is two-fold:

  1. For passing the course, five sets of compulsory hand-in exercises need to be solved. These will test the students' ability to solve plasma physics problems of various difficulty, and they will provide an opportunity for the student to prepare for problem solving at the final exam. The hand-ins are not graded but, to be accepted, it is required that the student makes a serious effort in solving them. The solutions are discussed on the lectures afterwards.
  2. After the course there is a final oral exam. At the exam each student has a 25-minute slot, which is used to assess the student's knowledge about the topics covered and ability to solve familiar plasma physics problems.

Changes made since the last occasion

1. The teachers of the course have been changed.

2. The hand-ins are now not graded, but compulsory.

3.  The scope of the oral exam became larger.


Learning objectives and syllabus

In order to pass the course, the student should be able to

  • understand the basic, distinguishing features of plasmas and explain how the plasma state is quantitatively defined in terms of those properties.
  • explain the differences between and similarities among the various plasma descriptions presented during the lectures, gain knowledge on what model to apply for a specific problem and roughly estimate their respective validity ranges.
  • derive the motion of a single particle in a static and uniform electromagnetic field.
  • understand and describe single particle motion in inhomogeneous, and/or temporally varying fields.
  • understand the physics underlying Liouville's theorem and explain how it leads to the Vlasov and Boltzmann equations.
  • briefly summarize how a fluid model may be constructed from kinetic theory.
  • illustrate how to construct a one-fluid model, such as e.g. MHD, from a two-fluid description.
  • understand how the MHD set of equations are used to determine equilibria and assess stability.
  • analyze simple MHD equilibria and stability problems.
  • understand the general mathematical approach used to describe linear plasma waves and apply those methods to new plasma settings.
  • derive and interpret plasma wave dispersion relations for the plasma waves covered in the course.
  • summarize the physics content of Landau damping.
  • discuss how Coulomb collisions can lead to a diffusive transport, and explain the properties of such collisional transport parallel and perpendicular to the magnetic field in a magnetized plasma. Explain the concept of ambipolarity.
  • understand the concept of plasma resistivity, and use it to discuss Ohmic heating and electron runaway
  • discuss fusion reactions semi-classically in terms of concepts such as cross section, Coulomb and nuclear potentials, energy balance etc.
  • discuss and contrast various paths towards controlled fusion energy on Earth.
  • understand the importance of the fusion triple product and derive the reaction power balance condition.
  • describe some typical magnetic confinement devices in terms of geometry, magnetic field structure, stability and technology (e.g. heating and diagnostic systems).

Study plan

Examination form

See above at Course design

Course summary:

Date Details Due