Physics of Plasmas and Ionized Media

(P4F2 and P4F2A)

The study program covers all aspects of plasma physics and with extensions to theoretical physics (elementary processes) and to some topics of astrophysics (interplanetary space plasma, dust / ice cloud problems in the solar system) and nuclear fusion. Studies include also borderline disciplines such as plasma chemistry, plasma interaction with solid surface and complex plasma. The program prepares professionals with a broad foundation in mathematics, physics, and computer modeling of physical processes and with deep knowledge of plasma physics.

Research fields are more or less defined by the current projects at our department and it similarly applies to the cooperating institutes of Czech Academy of Sciences.

Space Physics group is involved in a number of space plasma missions and its members interpret the data in following fields:

  1. Solar wind properties on large and small scales (experimental and theoretical investigations)
  2. Interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere
  3. Dust and dusty plasma in space and laboratory conditions
  4. Waves and wave–particle processes in the magnetosphere of Earth and planets

Plasma Physics group deals with elementary processes and transport phenomena in low-temperature plasma with an accent on diagnostic methods and applications:

  1. Elementary processes relevant to astrophysical environment (in laboratory and in simulations)
  2. Low-temperature plasma and its diagnostics
  3. Hot plasma in the magnetic field (e.g., tokamak)
→ Both groups develop new measuring methods for space applications and plasma technologies
Cooperating institutes

Available PhD Topics

It's always a good idea, if you find a topic for you, to contact supervisor first, i.e., prior application!

Kinetic modelling of the ITER Scrape-off Layer

Supervisor: David Tskhakaya, Ph.D. (ÚFP AV ČR)

Applicant: Šimon Vrba


Improvement of Space weather prediction using a combination of different data sources and techniques

Supervisor: Gilbert Pi, Ph.D.

Applicant: Sheng Li

Space Physics Group

The principal task of the present effort in solar-terrestrial physics is the transport of solar wind particles and energy into the magnetosphere with a motivation to contribute to the reliability of space weather predictions. However, these processes are highly dynamic due to varying upstream conditions. For accurate and timely space weather forecasting, advanced knowledge of the ambient solar wind is required, both for its direct impact on the magnetosphere and for accurately forecasting the propagation of large solar wind structures to Earth (e.g., ICMEs, CIRs). With a space weather monitor in the L5 Lagrange point (e.g., using the STEREO spacecraft or possible new planned probes to L5) and with the remote observations of the Sun (applying the Solar Orbiter surface image), we can quantify the solar wind forecast outputs and compare them with existing observations at the L1 point (ACE, Wind, DISCOVR, THEMIS, MMS).

In the proposed (Ph.D.) topic, the student will analyze all the above-mentioned data sources and focus on building a model using different techniques (including machine learning). The aim is to directly predict the arrival of space weather agents, thereby improving our knowledge of the evolution of the solar wind in the heliosphere.


[1] Turner, H., Lang, M., Owens, M., Smith, A., Riley, P., Marsh, M., & Gonzi, S. (2023). Solar wind data assimilation in an operational context: Use of near-real-time data and the forecast value of an L5 monitor. Space Weather, 21, e2023SW003457.
[2] Mishra, W. and Teriaca L. (2023), Propagation of coronal mass ejections from the Sun to the Earth, Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy, 44 (1), DOI: 10.1007/s12036-023-09910-6
[3] A Statistical Study of coronal mass ejections for solar cycle 23 (Chinese), Master thesis, NCU, 2005
[4] Lin, R.-P., Y. Yang, F. Shen, G. Pi, and Y. Li (2024), An Algorithm For Determination of CME Kinematic Parameters Based On Machine Learning, ApJS, accepted.
[5] Nafchi, M.A., F. Němec , G. Pi, Z. Němeček, J. Šafranková, K. Grygorov, J. Šimůnek, T.-C. Tsai (2024), Magnetopause Location Modeling Using Machine Learning: Inaccuracy Due to Solar Wind Parameter Propagation, Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, submitted.


Electron plasma waves in the solar wind

Supervisor: Ing. Jan Souček, Ph.D. (ÚFA AV ČR)

Applicant: Pavel Houfek


Testing the resistance of first wall materials in inertial fusion reactors: from actions of energetic photons to high velocity impact of target debris

Supervisor: Ing. Libor Juha, CSc. (FzÚ AV ČR)

Applicant: Jakub Bulička

Despite the recent advances achieved in the study of inertial confinement fusion (ICF) of light elements, numerous steps leading to an ICF reactor generating electricity for the grid are still subjected to extensive research. One of the most challenging problems is to ensure the long-term resistance of the reactor first (inner) walls. This thesis should deal with laboratory investigations of damage to various refractory materials (W,BN,SiC) induced by different fusion plasma emissions (both photons and charged particles) and debris liberated from targets (fuel capsules) exposed to intense laser radiation (direct drive ICF).

1. T. Okazaki, Fusion Reactor Design: Plasma Physics, Fuel Cycle System, Operation and Maintenance, Wiley-VCH, NY-Weinheim 2022.
2. T. J. Tanaka, G. A. Rochau, R. R. Peterson, and C. L. Olson, “Testing IFE materials on Z”, J. Nucl. Mater. 347, 244–254 (2005).
3. M. Kaufmann and R. Neu, “Tungsten as first wall material in fusion devices”, Fusion Eng. Design 82, 521-527 (2007).
4. E. Lassner and W.-D. Schubert, Tungsten: Properties, Chemistry, and Technology of the Element, Alloys, and Chemical Compounds, Springer, New York 1999.
5. O. I. Buzhinskij, I. V. Opimach, A. V. Kabishev, V.V. Lopatin, and Y. P. Surov: “Application of pyrolytic boron nitride in fusion devices”, J. Nucl. Mater. 173, 179-184 (1990).


Photonic Quantum Control of Laser-Cooled Plasma

Supervisor: Mgr. Michal Hejduk, Ph.D.

Applicant: {Hudák Ivan}[866]

Group of Plasma Physics and Numerical Simulations

Trapped ions stand at the forefront of advancements in optical atomic clocks, quantum metrology, and quantum computing. The integration of this quantum system with photonic devices, notably through strong collective coupling within an optical cavity, promises to enable efficient entanglement across spatially separated traps. Such an advancement is crucial for the development of distributed quantum computing and quantum network systems. Substituting trapped ions with trapped electrons could dramatically increase the efficiency of quantum networks. Yet, the challenge of effectively preparing and reading out the state of trapped electrons remains. Addressing this challenge, the project proposes the coupling of laser-cooled trapped ions with trapped electrons. It will explore the integration of a fiber-based photonic device with ion and electron traps, investigating the quantum control mechanisms of these coupled electron-ion quantum systems.


Photon Detection by Laser-Cooled Plasma

Supervisor: Mgr. Michal Hejduk, Ph.D.

Group of Plasma Physics and Numerical Simulations

Due to their electrical charge-to-mass ratio, levitating electrons are ideal candidates for a medium to detect particles with very low momentum or energy, such as photons in the microwave and radiofrequency range. This fact can be utilized for the passive detection of devices emitting in those frequency bands or in quantum illumination protocols. However, this requires preparing the electrons in specific quantum states, which is the topic of this thesis. Specifically, it will address the cooling of electrons in interactions with laser-cooled ions. Within this work, we will further develop the latest model of a microwave trap capable of holding both ions and electrons. After successful operational tests, we will examine the interaction of the quantum ion-electron system following exposure to external electromagnetic radiation and work on defining a suitable detection protocol. These efforts will take place in conjunction with theoretical research at the Czech Academy of Sciences and the development of other parts of the experimental apparatus. The goal of the thesis is to synthesize all available knowledge and components into a functioning device.


Evolution of the ion velocity distribution functions in the inner heliosphere

Supervisor: Mgr. Tereza Ďurovcová, Ph.D.

Applicant: Sruti Satyasmita

Space Physics Group

The solar wind consists of protons, electrons, and smaller amounts of heavy ions. Two differently streaming proton populations can occur simultaneously – a dominant denser population called the core, and a minor population, the beam. The origin of the proton beam and the mechanisms driving its development in the heliosphere are not yet fully understood. A previous study of Ďurovcová et al. (2021) suggests that proton beam seed is formed near the Sun and then evolves through kinetic processes operating in the solar wind. This study was built on data from the Helios mission operating at radial distances of 0.3 to 1 AU from the Sun. In 2018, the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) was launched and will reach up to 0,046 AU from the Sun at its closest approach. This opened the possibility of studying ion velocity distribution functions (VDFs) near the solar wind source regions, thus the main aim of the thesis will be to study the evolution of ion VDFs in the inner heliosphere. To address this goal, we will develop procedures for determination of the proton beam parameters from the VDFs measured by the SPAN-ion instrument onboard PSP. It allows us to study the development of the proton beam even in the region below the Alfven point where the solar wind is still subsonic and to compare the results with findings from the Helios mission and as well as with measurements at larger distances from the Sun.

Literature: 1) Russell, C.T., Luhmann, J.G. and Strangeway, R.J. (2016) Space Physics: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2) Kallenrode, M.-B. (2013) Space Physics, An Introduction to Plasmas and Particles in the Heliosphere and Magnetospheres, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin.
3) Meyer-Vernet, N. (2007) Basics of the Solar Wind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Cambridge Atmospheric and Space Science Series).
4) Verscharen, D., Klein, K.G. & Maruca, B.A. The multi-scale nature of the solar wind. Living Rev Sol Phys 16, 5 (2019).
5) Marsch, E. Kinetic Physics of the Solar Corona and Solar Wind. Living Rev. Sol. Phys. 3, 1 (2006).
6) Viall, N.M. and Borovsky, J.E. (2020), Nine Outstanding Questions of Solar Wind Physics. J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 125: e2018JA026005.
and further journal papers upon recommendation of supervisor


Electron collision experiments with gas phase molecules

Supervisor: Pamir Nag, Ph.D. (ÚFCh JH AV ČR)

Applicant: Samrat Saha