Thermal plasmas

Equilibrium (or LTE) plasmas are characterized, deriving thermodynamic, transport properties and equilibrium composition, in a wide range of pressure and temperatures, ranging from technological applications to planetary atmospheres and stellar plasmas.


Thermodynamics and Transport in Equilibrium Plasmas

Thermodynamic properties and equilibrium chemical composition of complex gas mixtures (Earth, Mars and Jupiter atmospheres) have been calculated in the framework of the statistical thermodynamics, exploiting a fast and stable algorithm for the solution of the chemical equilibrium composition with the hierarchical approach. A simplified model, the two-level approach, to calculate partition functions and thermodynamic properties of atomic species has been proposed, reducing the number of the true atomic states in few virtual levels through a grouping procedure.
Transport coefficients (thermal conductivity λ, viscosity η and electrical conductivity σe) for plasmas generated in the impact of space vehicles on different planetary atmospheres (Earth, Jupiter, Mars), have been derived, in the framework of the Chapman Enskog theory, considering a high-order approximation and including also minor species. The core of the calculation is represented by the characterization of binary interactions, i.e. the derivation of collision integrals, describing the microscopic dynamics. The phenomenological approach has been proposed and validated for a number of different systems, that is based on modeling the average interparticle interaction with a phenomenological potential, whose parameters can be estimated through correlation formulas from physical properties of the collisional partners. Moreover a novel efficient algorithm has been implemented based on fractal integration.
The web-access computational tool EquilTheta, that calculates chemical equilibrium product concentrations, thermodynamic and transport properties for a given mixture in wide temperature and pressure ranges, is the focus of a business plan for the creation of a CNR-UniBAS spin-off.

High-Density Plasmas

The thermodynamic properties and the electrical conductivity of non-ideal, high-density hydrogen plasma have been investigated, accounting for quantum effects due to the change in the energy spectrum of atomic hydrogen when the electron-proton interaction is considered embedded in the surrounding particles. High-density conditions have been simulated assuming a simple confined-atom model, with the atom fixed in the centre of a spherical box, or atomic hydrogen subject to a screened Coulomb potential.

Laser-induced Plasmas

Laser induced plasma, LIP, is a technique of growing interest in different fields such as material processing, diagnostic, chemical analysis and space applications (Mars Curiosity Rover). Theoretical investigations have been dedicated to verify the assumption of local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE), commonly considered for calibration-free LIBS.

  1. titanium laser-induced plume expansion
    Nanosecond laser pulsed have been used to evaporate metal and metal oxides, in different environments, such as vacuum chamber, free air and water, in this last case also simulating the bubble dynamics. The role of chemical reactions in the dynamics of plume expansion has been investigated under different assumptions, such as LTE, free flow (without reactions) and chemical kinetics.
  2. collisional-radiative (CR) model of aluminium-laser induced plasma
    A deeper analysis can be carried out by considering a collisional radiative model for atomic metals, using experimental values of plume parameters such as pressure and temperature.
  3. electron and phonon dynamics in metals
    A similar approach can be used to investigate electron and phonon gas in a solid hitted by a fs laser pulse, exciting the electrons, which relax in ps range exchanging energy with the phonon-lattice.

Fluctuations in Gases and Plasmas

Fluctuation theory describes fundamental plasma processes and also provides expressions for the spectral densities of fluctuating plasma quantities as function of the averaged distribution function. This particular outcome of the fluctuation framework constitutes the basis of a number of independent diagnostics that can be implemented in diverse plasma environments. While fluctuation theory is rigorous for collisionless fully ionized plasmas, there exist regimes where approximate methods have to be invoked. Numerical experiments, which are performed by mean of Molecular Dynamics simulations, allows us to explore such regimes which are intractable by the analytical approach.

Facilities & Labs

HPC Cluster and Services @ Bari





CNR Researcher



CNR Researcher



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Associate Professor


Lucia Daniela


CNR Researcher




Professor Associate



Professor Associate


  1. D. Bruno, A. Frezzotti, G.P. Ghiroldi, Oxygen transport properties estimation by classical trajectory–direct simulation Monte Carlo, Phys. Fluids 27 057101 (2015). DOI: 10.1063/1.4921157.
  2. V. Laporta, D. Bruno, Electron-vibration energy-exchange models in nitrogen-containing plasma flows, J. Chem. Phys. 138 104319 (2013). DOI: 10.1063/1.4794690.
  3. D. Bruno, F. Esposito, V. Giovangigli, Relaxation of rotational-vibrational energy and volume viscosity in H-H2 mixtures, J. Chem. Phys. 138 084302 (2013). DOI: 10.1063/1.4792148.
  4. M. Tuttafesta, A. D’Angola, A. Laricchiuta, P. Minelli, M. Capitelli, G. Colonna, GPU and Multi-core based Reaction Ensemble Monte Carlo method for non-ideal thermodynamic systems, Computer Physics Communications, 185, 540–549, (2014); doi: 10.1016/j.cpc.2013.10.017
  5. G. Colonna, A. D’Angola, A. Laricchiuta, D. Bruno, M. Capitelli, Analytical Expressions of Thermodynamic and Transport Properties of the Martian Atmosphere in a Wide Temperature and Pressure Range, Plasma Chemistry and Plasma Processing, 33, 401–431, (2013); doi: 10.1007/s11090-012-9418-4
  6. G. D’Ammando, G. Colonna, M. Capitelli, A simplified approach to calculate atomic partition functions in plasmas, Physics of Plasmas, 20, 032108, (2013); doi: 10.1063/1.4794286
  7. A. V. Kosarim, B. M. Smirnov, A. Laricchiuta, M. Capitelli, Resonant charge-exchange involving excited helium atoms and reactive transport of local thermodynamic equilibrium helium plasma, Physics of Plasmas, 19, 062309, (2012); doi: 10.1063/1.4729727
  8. D. Bruno, G. Colonna, A. Laricchiuta and M. Capitelli, Reactive and internal contributions to the thermal conductivity of local thermodynamic equilibrium nitrogen plasma: The effect of electronically excited states, Physics of Plasmas, 19, 122309, (2012); doi:10.1063/1.4771689
  9. A. D’Angola, G. Colonna, A. Bonomo, D. Bruno, A. Laricchiuta, M. Capitelli, A phenomenological approach for the transport properties of air plasmas, The European Physical Journal D, 66, 205, (2012); doi: 10.1140/epjd/e2012-30147-8
  10. M. Capitelli, G. Colonna, G. D’Ammando, R. Gaudiuso, L. D. Pietanza, Physical Processes in Optical Emission Spectroscopy, Chapter in Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy in the series Springer Series in Optical Sciences, vol. 182, 31-57, (2014); doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-45085-3_2

Latest News

Disordered serendipity: a glassy path to discovery

A workshop in honour of Giorgio Parisi’s 70th birthday

September 19-21, 2018 - Roma

Sapienza University

With the occasion of celebrating Giorgio Parisi 70th birthday, the conference "Disordered serendipity: a glassy path to discovery" brings to Rome many among the world-leading experts in the field of complex systems. In order to properly represent the many fields of research where Giorgio Parisi gave a relevant contribution in his studies of disordered systems, the conference covers a broad spectrum of topics: from  fundamental and rigorous analysis of the statistical mechanics of disorder systems to applications in biology and computer science. These subjects are deeply interconnected since they are characterized by the presence of glassy behavior.

Il prof. Giorgio Parisi eletto presidente dell'Accademia dei Lincei


La più antica accademia del mondo ha un nuovo Presidente

Roma, 22 Giugno 2018

Siamo lieti di annunciare che il prof Giorgio Parisi, fisico della Università La Sapienza di Roma e Associato Cnr Nanotec, è il nuovo Presidente dell'Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. A lui le nostre più vive congratulazioni e gli auguri di buon lavoro.


Costituzione del nuovo Ispc-Cnr

IV incontro - nuovo Istituto di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale - CNR

Lecce, 20 aprile 2018

Aula Rita Levi Montalcini - ore 11:00

CNR NANOTEC c/o Campus Ecotekne

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