Professor PK Kaw, pioneer of thermo-nuclear fusion in India and globally recognized plasma physicist, died on Tuesday due to a cardiac arrest at the age of 69. He breathed his last at his Ahmedabad residence.
The Institute of Plasma Research (IPR), Gandhinagar was founded by Professor Predhiman Krishan, who also served as the Professor of Department of Science and Technology (DST) at the institute till he breathed his last.
The veteran scientist was Padma Shri awardee and he received this honour in 1985 for contributing in the field of producing energy through thermonuclear fusion.
“It is a huge and irreparable loss to the whole nation at large and IPR in particular. His contribution to plasma and fusion sciences, and his tireless efforts in nurturing the IPR since its inception will be remembered for long,” said Dean (R&D), IPR, D Chenna Reddy.
The acting Chief Administrative Officer of IPR, P K Atrey, said Kaw died after suffering a cardiac arrest at his home.
“He was the founder director of IPR and was serving as DST-Professor at the institute since 2013. He was very much active in research and other academic work at the institute till his end,” said Atrey.
Internationally, Professor Kaw is well known for his outstanding contribution to the physics of non-linear collective phenomena in plasmas with special emphasis on applications to thermonuclear fusion.
Professor Kaw was born in January 1948 and in 1966 he did his Ph D from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He achieved this academic milestone at the age of 18.
Kaw went to Princeton University, USA as a post doctoral fellow after completing his Ph D and later he joined the university as an assistant professor.
Kaw returned to India in 1971 and was here till 1975. He served as associate professor and then professor at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad.
He extended the theory of parametric instabilities to magnetised plasmas in this period. He also made important contributions to the theory of ionospheric irregularities in the equatorial electro jet.
In early 80s, Kaw and some of his former colleagues at PRL succeeded in persuading the DST to set up a major programme of plasma physics at PRL.
He returned to India in 1982 to direct this programme. The programme was separated from PRL in 1986 and became the DST-funded Institute for Plasma Research.Kaw was IPR’s director between 1986 and 2012. In 1996, IPR was taken over by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) with a considerable upscaling of the experimental efforts on thermonuclear fusion.
Under his leadership, the institute has carried out the design/fabrication of an advanced steady-state superconducting tokamak SST-1. This machine is undergoing commissioning trials now and is one of the first machine of this kind anywhere in the world.
Kaw also guided the the institute in spearheading India’s case for participation in the prestigious ITER (fusion) experiment and is now the nodal domestic agency looking after this participation.
(With inputs from PTI)