UNL assistant professor’s research could save lives & billions of dollars

The difficult study of turbulence is something Jae Sung Park hopes to conquer
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Jae Sung Park,poses with an airliner model. He is an NSF CAREER award winner and is researching a dynamical systems approach to turbulent flows and how they affect airplanes. He is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical & Materials Engineering. January 20, 2022. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Assistant professor Jae Sung Park is studying “the last great unsolved problem of classical physics”: turbulence.

Park is an engineer, and he is hoping to use his expertise in the mostly untouched area of turbulence.  He received over $500,000 from the National Science Foundation as a five-year award.

Park says turbulence can look chaotic and random, but you can find small patterns if you look closely.  If he can find those patterns through his research, he could begin to predict how it will affect turbulence.

His research will start small, but he hopes it will pave the way for bigger discoveries in the future involving both gas and liquid forms.

According to a UNL article, Park says this research could save loads of money in air travel. “…most of the energies we use for airplanes, even reducing turbulence by 5% might be enough to reduce (fuel) consumption by up to half.  And if we can reduce air turbulence by even 1%, it’s been said we could save about $2 billion per year in airplane fuel consumption,” said Park.

Through the award he received, he will also be doing work on turbulence in piping systems that could save money for the food industry.  He will even be teaching K-12 students about the role of turbulence in sports, such as swimming and basketball.

The benefits don’t stop there either, with Park adding we can, “possibly save lives by predicting cardiovascular events (such as strokes and heart attacks) or major weather events (such as tornadoes or hurricanes).”

Park said, “I want to start right so we can build a foundation.  Hopefully we can find a solution and also inspire young students to take this in another direction in the future and make things not so chaotic.”

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