Dr. Ken Hara, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University, has been recognized with a 2018 Department of Energy (DOE) Early Career Research Program Award for his achievements and future potential in fusion energy sciences.

The DOE Office of Science selected 84 scientists, including 54 from universities and 30 from DOE national laboratories, this year. Hara is one of two Texas A&M faculty to receive funding (the other is Dr. David C. Powers, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry). Hara was awarded a total of $750,000 over five years.

Hara’s research project is titled “Kinetic Effects on Self-Organization in Low-Temperature Magnetized Plasmas,” awarded through the Fusion Energy Science program. Self-organized patterns and structures occur in many systems, including a wide variety of space and laboratory plasmas, and play an important role in mass and energy transfer of the plasmas.

The goal of his research is to understand the interplay between the large-scale self-organizing structures and small-scale kinetic phenomena. Additionally, such laboratory plasmas can have influence from the plasma-immersed materials. Particularly, the research focuses on coherent structures that can be found in laboratory plasmas with crossed electric and magnetic fields, such as magnetron discharges and Hall effect thrusters. Although this has been a well-observed phenomenon, it is not well understood how different phenomena in the plasma interact with each other and how those result in self-organization.

“I’m excited to work on this challenging problem. Advanced numerical tools that model device-scale phenomena but resolve small-scale turbulence features are required,” Hara said. “Low-temperature magnetized plasmas are very interesting because collisions with neutral atoms and walls (typical features of low-temperature plasmas) and collisionless instabilities and oscillations (typical features of high-temperature plasmas) both coexist. Understanding the physics of low-temperature magnetized plasmas, I believe, will lead to breakthroughs in how we control and sustain plasma flows.”

Hara received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tokyo in 2008 and 2010, respectively, and his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan in 2015. He completed a postdoc at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory prior to joining Texas A&M in 2016. Last year, Hara received the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Research Program award. His research interests include electric propulsion, plasma physics and applications, kinetic theory and simulations, and computational fluid dynamics. Find more about his research.