Research Topic

Ion Beams from Plasmas: Space to Nanotechnology

About this Research Topic

Ion beams derived from plasmas have revolutionized many areas of physics and applications. One of the key areas in the last few decades has been in semiconductor processing for integrated circuit fabrication, where directed ion beams obtained from plasmas helped in etching of micron to sub-micrometer features with high aspect ratios. Plasma-assisted ion beam etching has been the driving force of the semiconductor industry. Historically, ion beams derived from electron cyclotron resonance plasmas have been extremely useful in mainstream nuclear physics research, and are prevalent in most nuclear physics laboratories around the world, where intense multiply charged ions have been accelerated to high energies and used both in conventional nuclear physics experiments as projectiles, and for the creation of radioactive ion beams. Accelerated beams after passing through a cyclotron have been applied in the medical field for treatment of cancer for many years. In the last one or two decades, another area that has received considerable attention is space propulsion technology employing ion beams from plasma sources. A variety of plasma thrusters for electric spacecraft propulsion have been developed, with an objective to reduce rocket payload by avoiding the use of solid and liquid propellants and with a view to facilitating futuristic long-distance interplanetary travel. There are several other emerging areas where ion beams from plasma play a critical role in pushing research boundaries. One such area is focused ion beam (FIB) based nano-microstructuring. Conventional liquid metal-based FIB systems rely on Gallium as source of ions, which is a liquid metal at room temperature. Ga-based FIB sources suffer from surface contamination issues. Additionally, due to smaller currents, they require huge milling times even to mill out a small volume. In order to cater to emerging research areas such as processing of bio-materials and in micro-fluidics applications where high throughput is desired by the industry, there are efforts to develop focused ion beam sources from gaseous plasmas of inert gases, which can be non-toxic, and therefore suitable for biomaterials. Additionally, they would provide an option for rapid processing due to higher currents, without metallic contamination. In recent years, another target area that has seen wide activity is low energy plasma-based ion beams for surface modification of materials and adding greater functionality to them. Low energy ion beams have been applied to create atomically heterogeneous systems, where the ions enter into the lattice of the host and are confined within a few subsurface layers, thereby creating a heterogeneity at the atomic level. They modify surface (wettability), electrical and optical properties of materials. From localized micron-scale subsurface implantation to wide area irradiation with shower ion beams, it has been found that by varying the beam fluence and ionic species, widely tunable material properties can be realized.

With the above overview of the Research Topic, potential authors are welcome to submit high quality research papers in experimental, theoretical, and computational areas, or their combination, such that it belongs to the broad research theme of ion beams from plasmas and their applications from space to nanotechnology. The scope may not be limited to the afore-mentioned topics alone, so long as the submitted article falls within the scope of the title. We welcome the submission of Original Research, Review, Brief Research Report and Perspective articles. More information on the article types can be found in the author guidelines.


Keywords: plasma sheaths, extraction, acceleration and focusing, beam current and voltage, ion-matter interactions, space propulsion


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Ion beams derived from plasmas have revolutionized many areas of physics and applications. One of the key areas in the last few decades has been in semiconductor processing for integrated circuit fabrication, where directed ion beams obtained from plasmas helped in etching of micron to sub-micrometer features with high aspect ratios. Plasma-assisted ion beam etching has been the driving force of the semiconductor industry. Historically, ion beams derived from electron cyclotron resonance plasmas have been extremely useful in mainstream nuclear physics research, and are prevalent in most nuclear physics laboratories around the world, where intense multiply charged ions have been accelerated to high energies and used both in conventional nuclear physics experiments as projectiles, and for the creation of radioactive ion beams. Accelerated beams after passing through a cyclotron have been applied in the medical field for treatment of cancer for many years. In the last one or two decades, another area that has received considerable attention is space propulsion technology employing ion beams from plasma sources. A variety of plasma thrusters for electric spacecraft propulsion have been developed, with an objective to reduce rocket payload by avoiding the use of solid and liquid propellants and with a view to facilitating futuristic long-distance interplanetary travel. There are several other emerging areas where ion beams from plasma play a critical role in pushing research boundaries. One such area is focused ion beam (FIB) based nano-microstructuring. Conventional liquid metal-based FIB systems rely on Gallium as source of ions, which is a liquid metal at room temperature. Ga-based FIB sources suffer from surface contamination issues. Additionally, due to smaller currents, they require huge milling times even to mill out a small volume. In order to cater to emerging research areas such as processing of bio-materials and in micro-fluidics applications where high throughput is desired by the industry, there are efforts to develop focused ion beam sources from gaseous plasmas of inert gases, which can be non-toxic, and therefore suitable for biomaterials. Additionally, they would provide an option for rapid processing due to higher currents, without metallic contamination. In recent years, another target area that has seen wide activity is low energy plasma-based ion beams for surface modification of materials and adding greater functionality to them. Low energy ion beams have been applied to create atomically heterogeneous systems, where the ions enter into the lattice of the host and are confined within a few subsurface layers, thereby creating a heterogeneity at the atomic level. They modify surface (wettability), electrical and optical properties of materials. From localized micron-scale subsurface implantation to wide area irradiation with shower ion beams, it has been found that by varying the beam fluence and ionic species, widely tunable material properties can be realized.

With the above overview of the Research Topic, potential authors are welcome to submit high quality research papers in experimental, theoretical, and computational areas, or their combination, such that it belongs to the broad research theme of ion beams from plasmas and their applications from space to nanotechnology. The scope may not be limited to the afore-mentioned topics alone, so long as the submitted article falls within the scope of the title. We welcome the submission of Original Research, Review, Brief Research Report and Perspective articles. More information on the article types can be found in the author guidelines.


Keywords: plasma sheaths, extraction, acceleration and focusing, beam current and voltage, ion-matter interactions, space propulsion


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

16 December 2020 Manuscript
04 March 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

16 December 2020 Manuscript
04 March 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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