Francis F. Chen

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Francis F. Chen (born November 18, 1929 in Guangdong, China) is a Chinese-born American plasma physicist.


Chen studied at Harvard University, where he received his bachelor's degree in astronomy in 1950, a master's degree in physics in 1953, and his doctorate in 1954. At that time he worked on high-energy physics (proton-proton scattering and proton-nucleus scattering at the new energy of 1 GeV). Starting in 1954 he worked at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (where he worked initially with the Stellarator). He remained at PPPL until 1969 when he became professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been a professor emeritus since 1994. He was a visiting scientist at the nuclear research center in Fontenay-aux-Roses in 1962-63, 1977 in Lausanne and in 1985 in Australia and Japan.

Chen has been concerned with not only basic research in plasma physics and magnetic and inertial confinement fusion, but also with low-energy plasma physics for industrial applications such as semiconductors. He has worked in both theoretical and experimental plasma physics. He has studied multiple subfields of plasma physics including: plasma diagnostics, accelerator concepts with plasmas, helicon plasma sources, plasma instabilities of laser interaction, Langmuir probes, resistive drift waves, anomalous diffusion, and Q-machines. He wrote a very well known and highly regarded Introductory Plasma Physics textbook (see below).

Since 1968 he has been a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). He received the James-Clerk-Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics in 1995. In 1983 he was Chairman of the Plasma Physics Section of the APS. Since 1980 he has been a Fellow of the IEEE, and he received the Plasma Physics and Applications Award in 1994.


  • Introduction to Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, Plenum Press, New York 1984
  • Jane Chang Lecture Notes on Principles of Plasma Processing, Springer 2003
  • An Indispensable Truth: How Fusion Power Can Save the Planet, Springer 2011 (Amazon Kindle version available)


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