The Plasma Physics Laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan was established in 1959 by Dr. H. M. Skarsgard (now Emeritus Professor) and early experimental work was centred around the study of electron acceleration in the Plasma Betatron.
These early experiments led to the study of plasma turbulence and some of the earliest work on turbulent heating in toroidal geometry. Successful experiments in toroidal turbulent heating, which resulted in keV electron temperature, led to the construction of STOR-1M, Canada's first tokamak (1983) and was soon followed by a larger tokamak, STOR-M (1987) which is still active.
Both machines have been used to carry out unique experiments including turbulent heating, ac (alternating current) tokamak operation, plasma biasing, anomalous transport, and Compact Torus (CT) injection. Currently the STOR-M is the only device in Canada devoted to magnetic fusion research. PPL is a member of IAEA CRP (Collaborative Research Projects) of small fusion devices.
In 2000, research on plasma based material synthesis was initiated. The Plasma Physics Laboratory is becoming a centre of carbon based materials research and its research scope is expanding rapidly with the newest addition of ion implantation program. High quality diamond thin films, carbon nanotubes (CNT), and carbon nanocones, all having potentials of industrial applications, have been synthesized. Research of coating medical grade polymers with DLC (diamond-like carbon) is underway to improve haemocompatibility of artificial blood vessels in cardiovascular applications.
The Laboratory offers training of graduate students and PDFs in broad programs of plasma science and plasma assisted material science. Five comprehensive graduate level courses are available and experimental programs range from tokamak physics to plasma assisted material synthesis, both in experiments and in theory.
The research contributions made by the faculty members are recognized internationally. The Laboratory is well funded by NSERC (Discovery Grants, Strategic Grants, RTI), Canada Research Chair Program, Province, and the University. In 2013, the team of Professors Xiao and Hirose was awarded an inaugural research grant by the Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation (CCNI) for the STOR-M tokamak program.