[Excellent R&D] Into the Unknown through Convergence
Professor Kim Yong-kyun (Department of Nuclear Engineering)
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For a long time, scientists have wanted to figure out how the elements which constitute the universe were formed. Still, there is not much known about this mechanism. Heavy-ion particle accelerators now provide a clue to the generative processes as they reproduce what the universe has been going through since its creation. Professor Kim Yong-kyun (Department of Nuclear Engineering) contributed to the establishment of a new heavy-ion particle accelerator RAON by building the most powerful and accurate μSR (Muon spin rotation).
RAON is a heavy-ion particle accelerator propelled by the Institute of Basic Science, which is a machine that can be used to find undiscovered elements or reenact the formation process of existing elements. It will be the first heavy-ion particle accelerator that uses both Isotope Separation On-Line and In-flight Fragmentation methods. Because the machine is so complex, researchers are conducting the project in collaboration with many other accelerator research groups including Radiation Instrument and Sensor Engineering Lab (RAISE), a Hanyang University Research Laboratory led by Kim. Kim’s team has been specifically working on μSR.
μ (Muon) is an unstable elementary particle similar to the electron which is created by collision between high-energy protons and the atmosphere. Owing to its greater mass, μ accelerates slower than electrons in electromagnetic fields. μ lets scientists probe the properties of novel materials as it penetrates far deeper into the matter than X-rays. μ exist all around the world, but is useless because of its short meantime of 2.2 μs (microseconds). “That is why we use heavy-ion particle accelerators to create μ,” explained Kim.
μSR measures the decay and spin information with μ produced by the accelerators, offering new insights into the property of a matter. μSR is a technique based on the implantation of spin-polarized μ in the matter and on the detection of the influence of the atomic, molecular or crystalline surroundings on their spin motion. Kim’s team is now building the most powerful and precise μSR in the world. “Our μSR is expected to further the development of new semiconductors and superconductors as well as shed light on material science,” said Kim.
Ten years ago, when the government first launched the project of building the domestic heavy-ion particle accelerator, no one in the field believed that there would be a notable achievement. However, within a decade, RAON is becoming the cutting-edge convergence technology of basic science. Kim attributes its success to Korea’s competitiveness in interdisciplinary education between basic science and practical studies. “STEM education in Korea is top-notch,” said Kim. “The Department of Nuclear Engineering's curriculum contributed to a certain extent.”
Kim advised students to find new possibilities and integrate different interests, saying “You should challenge yourself to achieve what you aim for.” With these initiatives in mind, Kim is pioneering his way into science and technology that is yet unknown.
Oh Kyu-jin email@example.com
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