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Professor Tony Bell is awarded the Hannes Alfvén Prize 2018

Posted By Administration, Tuesday 19 December 2017

The European Physical Society, through its Plasma Physics Division, is pleased to announce the Hannes Alfvén Prize 2018 is awarded to

Professor Tony Bell FRS of Oxford University

Tony Bell has opened up new research fields in both astrophysics and the laboratory. His seminal contributions cover cosmic ray acceleration by shocks, magnetic field amplification by cosmic rays, flux limited electron transport, generation of magnetic field by laserproduced energetic electrons, collimation of electron beams for inertial fusion, prolific production of electronpositron pairs.

Scientific background

Tony Bell is a theoretical plasma physicist. During the course of his career he has opened up new research fields in both astrophysical and laboratory plasmas. His foremost achievement is the leading role he played in the development of what is now the standard model of astrophysical particle acceleration and cosmic ray (CR) origins.

He was the sole author of two particularly seminal papers:

(i) In 1978 Tony Bell proposed the theory of diffusive shock acceleration

(ii) In 2004 he showed how streaming cosmic rays can excite a new plasma instability and amplify magnetic fields as required for CR acceleration to PeV energies in supernova remnants (SNR) and to explain the strong magnetic fields observed at shocks.

The process of diffusive shock acceleration was independently proposed by Bell and by three other research groups. The theory of magnetic field amplification was proposed by Bell alone. Shockaccelerated relativistic electrons are responsible for the synchrotron and inverse Compton radiation from radio to gammaray wavelengths that contributes a substantial part of our knowledge of the universe.


In the field of laboratory plasma physics Tony Bell has been one of the main players over three decades in developing the understanding of electron transport in laserproduced plasmas. A longterm aim is the development of laserdriven thermonuclear fusion as a commercially viable source of electricity. In the medium term, laserplasma interactions at high laser intensity are increasingly seen as a shortpulse source of energetic photons, protons, electrons and positrons with a variety of applications. Tony Bell’s main achievements in laboratory plasma physics are:

(i) Explanation of ‘fluxlimited’ inhibition of thermal conduction in Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) capsules. This initiated the development of the nonlocal theory of electron transport that has proved to be one of the building blocks of the understanding of laserproduced plasmas.

(ii) Theory of energetic electron transport, showing how selfgenerated magnetic field can focus beams of energetic electrons into the dense thermonuclear fuel as required for high gain ICF by ‘fast ignition’.

(iii) Theoretical demonstration that Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) will play an important role in experiments with next generation high power lasers leading to prolific gammaray and electronpositron pair generation.

The common theme uniting these apparently disparate researches is the generation and transport of energetic particles whether they are cosmic rays in astrophysics or energetic electrons and electronpositron pairs in laserproduced plasmas.

Tags:  2018  aw  EPS Plasma Physics Division  eps ppd  Hannes Alfvén Prize  Plasma Physics 

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