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Hyeon Park, the first Korean to win ‘S. Chandrasekhar Prize’


Date of registration 2020-11-24


Hyeon Park

(Former) Professor at UNIST Physics Department

(Former) Head of KSTAR Center

(Present) Senior Adviser to KFE

“I wanted to accurately capture the plasma to understand the physics therein.”

- This has been a lifelong commitment of Dr. Hyeon Park, a world-renowned nuclear fusion scholar.

On September 10, the Plasma Division of the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies (AAPPS) announced Dr. Park, former head of the KSTAR Research Center and current KFE senior advisor, as the winner of the S. Chandrasekhar Prize. The S. Chandrasekhar Prize is considered one of the top three academic awards in the field of Plasma Physics, along with the James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics of the American Physical Society (APS) and the Hannes Alfvén Prize of the European Physical Society.

Secondary imaging observation has become an integral part of nuclear fusion plasma physics research

Working at PPPL, in 2002, Dr. Park succeeded in developing high-speed 2-D microwave imaging cameras with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy. This could show the movements of electrons inside plasma and, therefore, the 2-D imaging of fluctuating temperatures and densities of electrons within plasma, which allowed everyone to observe the same phenomenon objectively.

He moved to POSTECH in late 2007 when Korea's nuclear fusion research was about to begin in earnest. At that time, Korea was ambitiously trying to launch nuclear fusion research by building KSTAR. The imaging device developed by him enabled KSTAR, the world's first superconducting tokamak, to outperform as well as the matchless diagnostics.

"KSTAR's superb performance enabled symmetrical, high-performance plasma operation. This provided me with a chance to establish what I had been working on with great interests. I was able to sort out the controversies existing on the sawtooth crash process.”

The identification of sawtooth crash process in the core of plasma is one of his representative achievements in the field. Sawtooth crash process was first discovered in 1974, and no consensus had been reached among researchers for almost forty years, until Dr. Park and his team at KSTAR conducted a series of experiments in accuracy to find the answer. "Previously researchers viewed plasma as cylinder-shaped, but KSTAR’s imaging showed that plasma was not always shaped like a cylinder. In other words, the existing theory was half right, half wrong. It is not easy for a theoretical researcher to admit that his argument is wrong, but the images and videos provided a firm, objective ground for anyone to agree upon."

KSTAR is considered to be the most sophisticated and symmetrical superconducting tokamak in existence. Experiment results, conducted on this excellent device and supported by objective image data, have fueled new theories and modellings, which also allowed for KSTAR to develop and carry out world-class plasma researches. KSTAR's imaging device began 2-D measurements in 2008 and since has added 3-D imaging features to observe within all areas of KSTAR the process where magnetic fluid phenomena develop and collapse in both 2-D and 3-D simultaneously.

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