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Dr Min Kwan Kim PhD

Associate Professor in Astronautics

Dr Min Kwan Kim's photo

Dr Minkwan Kim is Associate Professor in Astronautics within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton.

I received the PhD degree in Aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan in 2009. I joined the University of Southampton in 2016 having previously been at University of Michigan (2010), DLR Köln(2012) and University of Adelaide (2016). I specialise in modelling of plasma and non-equilibrium flows including atmospheric re-entry. I am already recognised as a research leader in the field of magneto hydrodynamics (MHD), planetary re-entry and radio blackout. In particular, I am one of the frontiers in a plasma communication which is using MHD effect to solve the radio blackout problem during hypersonic flights. Since April 2012, I have been a member of the Plasmadynamics and Laser (PDL) Technical Committee (TC) in the AIAA. AIAA TC consists of worldwide experts in plasma physics and weakly ionised gas flows who help develop, support, and administer AIAA products and services, including conferences, publications, and awards.

Research interests

My previous and current research activities have been driven by my attempts to understand the physical phenomena of plasma flows using numerical methods such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) or magneto hydrodynamics (MHD). Obtained knowledge through my research employed to mature the novel plasma technologies such as plasma communication and magnetic heat shield.

1. Radio blackout mitigation

Radio blackout refers to a communication interruption during hypersonic or reentry flight. The blackout occurs due to a plasma layer that has a high electron number density. These dense plasmas can either severely attenuate or reflect radio transmissions. Therefore, radio blackout is an important issue of hypersonic vehicle safety. The unique approach to solve the radio blackout problem is studied, which is using an electro-magnetic, E×B, layer to quench dense plasma. The suggested mitigation scheme is known as ‘E×B mitigation scheme’ and the feasibility of the proposed method is demonstrated using numerical methods.

2. Modeling of electron energy phenomena

Electron energy phenomena is studied and modeled for a hypersonic flow. It is necessary to model the electron energy separately from other energy modes, because it may have a significant effect on vibrational relaxation and chemical reactions such as ionization. In this study, the electron energy relaxations of each energy mode are accounted for which include translation-electron, rotational-electron, and vibrational-electron relaxation. In order to avoid a singularity of the Jacobian in the electron energy equation, a modified electron energy expression is introduced.

The developed electron temperature model is successfully used to simulate the electron temperature of the Stardust entry capsule that was previously never done by CFD.

3. Plasma diagnostic techniques

Plasma diagnostic techniques are used to measure properties of plasma such as temperature and density. Several diagnostic methods are employed and compared with numerical results. Laser-induced Florescence (LIF), Coherent anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopy (CARS) are employed to measure translational, rotational, and vibrational temperatures for NO and N2, respectively. Electron temperature and density are measured by Langmuir probe, and it is compared with the measured data using a radiation method.

4. Modeling of high enthalpy flow

Previously, the end-to-end model of a plasma wind tunnel is developed for the design arc heated plasma wind tunnel facility and the accurate prediction of flow characteristics. It is very important to precisely predict flow characteristics before a wind tunnel test because an appropriate diagnostic method should be decided and calibrated. In order to simulate a flow in a plasma wind tunnel, a hypersonic CFD code is developed, which is HANSA (Hypersonic Aerothermal solver for fully thermal Nonequilibrium flow Simulation in an Arc heated wind tunnel). The developed code is fully parallelized using Open-MPI and METIS, and it can handle structured and unstructured mesh for 2D/2D-axisymmetic/3D simulation. Recently, material response model is added in HANSA for the simulation of a gas-surface interaction known as ‘ablation’.

5. Magnetic heat shield

For the heating issue, a passive thermal protection system (TPS) is usually employed to protect the inside of a vehicle from a high aerodynamic heating during Mars entry. As an alternative method, an electrodynamic heat shield method known as the magnetic heat shield was suggested in the 1960s. The MHD heat shield uses the Lorentz force, induced by the interaction between an applied magnetic field and the weakly ionized gas flow, in order to control the plasma flow near the vehicle thus reducing the heat flux near a vehicle. Using numerical and experimental methods, the feasibility of a magnetic heat shield is investigated.

6. Hypersonic aerothermodynamics

The aim of this research is to develop the physics-based understanding and predictive capabilities through high-fidelity computational models for nonequilibrium flows around hypersonic vehicles. Aerothermodynamics couples the disciplines of aerodynamics and thermodynamics. It most often deals with problems in hypersonic flight in which high temperature gas effects strongly influence the fluid forces, energy flux, and mass flux on a vehicle. Many hypersonic aerothermodynamics researches were performed during Apollo and space shuttle programs. However, the remaining hypersonic researches, which involves hypersonic cruise vehicles, re-entry capsules, and unsolved hypersonic aerothermodynamics problems, are somewhat different to the previous hypersonic researches of Apollo and space shuttle eras.

Research group


Research project(s)

CubeSat de-orbit ALl-printed Propulsion System (Cube de ALPS)

Magdrive prototype thruster development

Rapid Decontamination System of PPE and Medical Equipment for Reuse using Flexible Non-thermal Plasma Generator

MHD Enhanced Entry System for Space Transportation (MEESST)

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Dr Min Kwan Kim
Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus
University of Southampton
Building 176
Burgess Road
SO16 7QF

Room Number : 176/2043

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