2024 EPS Plasma Physics Innovation Prize

Long citation

Anthony Murphy is a recognised leader in atmospheric-pressure plasma R&D, particularly thermal (arc) plasmas. His work has been highly influential, as demonstrated by his high citation rate (>13,000 in the Web of Science, >19,000 in Google Scholar), the highest of any thermal plasma researcher, present or past. As well as their significant impact on the research community, Dr Murphy’s scientific advances have been instrumental in ensuring the uptake of his R&D by industry. Three examples demonstrate the industrial impact of his work and its relation to his research results:

Development of the Plascon (now PyroplasTM) waste-treatment process, used worldwide to destroy ozone-depleting substances, greenhouse gases and toxic liquids. Dr Murphy’s computational model of the Plascon process was the first thermal plasma model to include fluid-dynamic, magnetohydrodynamic and detailed chemical-kinetic phenomena. He applied the model to identify the unwanted recombination reactions that occurred when destroying ozone-depleting substances, which led to the redesign of the process to add steam to the reactants. This modification has been used on all five Plascon plants (in Australia, UK, USA and Mexico) that destroy ozone-depleting substances and trifluoromethane.

Development of the “ArcWeld” welding simulation software package for use in industry. The software has been transferred to General Motors, USA and CRRC (China Rail and Rolling Stock Corporation) for use in the automotive and rail industries. Dr Murphy’s approach is unique in capturing all the important physical processes occurring in the arc plasma, electrode and weld pool in three dimensions. A critical innovation in the model is the inclusion of the influence of metal vapour, which cools the arc because of its strong radiative emission, leading to a ~50% reduction in the depth of the weld. This built on Dr Murphy’s pioneering work on understanding the effect of metal vapour in thermal plasmas. The innovations mean the model can reliably predict weld properties for a wide range of welding parameters with minimal benchmarking.

Calculation of the thermophysical properties of thermal plasmas for industry. Dr Murphy’s thermophysical data have been adopted by over 80 research groups and companies in over 25 countries and are widely used as a benchmark. Moreover, his combined diffusion coefficient method transformed the computational modelling of thermal plasmas in gas mixtures by allowing species (molecules, atoms, ions, electrons) to be grouped into their parent gases, greatly reducing the complexity of the problem. Dr Murphy’s data have been applied by companies such as Siemens, Pfiffner and Sensata Technologies for circuit breaker development, CFX Berlin for use in commercial CFD software, Boeing for modelling the influence of lightning on aircraft, and LS Electric (Korea) for the development of circuit breakers in novel insulating gases to replace SF6 (a strong greenhouse gas). His data have also been used by collaborators in Asia and Europe for projects funded by companies such as Kobe Steel, Yumex, and Nissan Tanaka Corporation to develop improved arc welding and plasma cutting processes, circuit breakers and arc lamps.