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An Overview of Thai Research in Physics: Achievements and Roadmaps for the Future

writerTPS (Boonrucksar Soonthornthum, Dheerawan Boonyawan and Duangmanee Wongratanaphisan)

Vol.34 (Apr) 2024 | Article no.15 2024

6 An Overview of Thai Research in Physics: Achievements and Roadmaps for the Future by TPS (Boonrucksar Soonthornthum, Dheerawan Boonyawan and Duangmanee Wongratanaphisan)


Physics research and its applications have developed significantly in Thailand during the past decade. The importance of physics as a basic science platform for the sustainable development of technology and high-performance personnel and for making substantial contributions to the socio-economic development of Thailand is clear.

To make policy-driving and actionable plans in a manner that encourages sustainable development, organizations involved in policy-making and researchers have joined together to define the key research areas and specific high-priority problems for physicists in Thailand.

The goal is to support research areas where Thai researchers would have opportunities to initiate and collaborate on cutting-edge research projects in physics, and those research areas should be based on the existing strengths of the scientific infrastructures and human resources, including some related fields.

The Thailand Center of Excellence in Physics (ThEP Center), established in 2007 under the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation, addresses the shortage of physicists in Thailand. Evolving into a hub for physics expertise in ASEAN, the ThEP Center collaborates globally on theoretical and applied problems, fosters partnerships, and positions Thai scientists as global leaders. This initiative underscores the ThEP Center’s pivotal role in advancing physics for Thailand’s sustainable development.

Finally, the Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) Funding Agency under the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (MHESI) has established a strategic plan for a Thailand Frontier Research Roadmap (2020–2027) and granted financial support to promote potentially fundamental research areas in three particular platforms in physics, namely quantum technology (QT), earth as space system (ESS) and high energy physics (HEP).

A White Paper and Action Plans on Thailand Frontier Research Roadmap:

Thailand’s frontier research has been endorsed as one of the important Action Plans of TSRI’s policy and strategy (2021–2027), in which annual budgets have been secured through managing the Program Management Unit (PMU). A white paper on the Thailand Frontier Research Roadmap has been set up to identify and initiate concrete ecosystems of frontier research in Thailand, i.e., to foster cooperation among the existing national and international research units/organizations, to provide opportunities for Thai researchers to participate in groundbreaking research projects, and to support education and technological development with the goal of self-reliance and ownership of critical technologies. Correspondingly, with the development of new technologies, the creation of new industries is anticipated, which would strengthen the long-term and sustainable development of Thailand Fig. 1.

Fig. 1
figure 1

White papers on three Thai frontier research areas in physics [1]

Quantum technology

Quantum technology is anticipated to be one of the key driving technologies in the future. Approaching the quantum era, major geopolitical players have joined together and developed their respective prototypes of quantum computers. Quantum technology will have future global implications for science and technology as a whole, and investment in quantum technology is anticipated to lead to opportunities for many novel innovations.

Thailand has also realized how important it is to keep up with global development in quantum technology. Currently in Thailand, approximately 200 researchers and new PhD graduates work in universities and research institutes conducting research on the development of quantum technologies. In 2018, Thailand made headlines with the launch of the Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST) Research Network. TSRI brought together researchers from the network to collaborate in formulating strategies and action plans for quantum technology by setting up a roadmap for the development of the following 3 areas of research:

  1. Quantum computing and simulation

  2. Quantum Communication

  3. Quantum metrology and sensing

Figure 2 provides an overview of the 10-year roadmap for the development of the three research areas listed above, which TSRI has approved.

Fig. 2
figure 2

The three pillars of quantum technology development in Thailand [1]

In the research area of quantum computing and simulation, university research institutes, including the Quantum Technology Foundation of Thailand (QTFT), have joined together in “Work Integrated Learning (WIL)” programs for Thai students in order to enhance their education in quantum technology and to provide networking opportunities for them as they work with experts who are currently involved in the commercial development of quantum technology.

Thailand has also made significant progress in the field of quantum communication. Thailand aims to develop a quantum key distribution system, which allows the secure distribution of encryption keys between two locations. The quantum key distribution system is expected to be the keystone of a comprehensive framework for future Internet network data security.

Quantum metrology and quantum sensors are areas of interest and development in Thailand’s quantum technology landscape. Thailand has been actively involved in research and development efforts to advance quantum sensors and metrology tools to improve the precision and sensitivity of sensors for various applications.

Earth and space system

Thailand has developed a strategic roadmap for the “Earth and Space System.” The program focuses on the intelligent use and distribution of infrastructures and human resources, the development of public policy, the support of novel research, and the examination of new business models for utilizing observations of the Earth and space technology to benefit Thailand. More concretely, the anticipated benefits to Thailand are sustainable development, and the enhancement of national security and quality of life for Thai people, via food and energy safety, cities and societies safety, disaster climate safety, space safety and security, and space technology and missions.

The Thai Space Consortium (TSC) is a collaboration between several organizations in Thailand, notably the Synchrotron Light Research Institute (SLRI), the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT), and many more research academic institutes under a MoU signed in April 2021. The collaboration aims to promote space technology development and research in the country, fostering knowledge sharing among its members and international organizations. Small TSC satellites, namely TSC Pathfinder and TSC-1, are under construction in collaboration with the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP) and the China National Space Agency (CNSA). The primary payloads of TSC-1, such as cosmic ray detectors, hyperspectral imaging for observations on Earth, and space weather, are developed in advanced laboratories in Thailand. The new development of TSC-2 and some primary payloads are planned, with a goal to probe the Moon and achieve space communication by 2030 Fig. 3.

Fig. 3
figure 3

The strategic roadmap on Earth and space system [1]

High energy physics

Thailand has been actively involved in high-energy physics research and collaborations, contributing to global advancements in this field. The National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) signed an MoU with Deutsches Elextronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in November 2015 for astroparticle physics collaboration and became a full member of a European megaproject called the “Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA).” To become a full member of CTA, Thailand made an in-kind contribution to the construction of a mirror coating machine for the thin-film coating of approximately 6400 mirrors used in the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) project, which is planned to be operated in 2024 for the detection of high energy gamma-ray radiated from distant celestial gamma-ray sources. The Thai-CTA consortium organized by Thai high-energy physics groups has made a research roadmap and produced new physics research with CTA publications.

In March 2009, Thailand, through the Synchrotron Light Research Institute (SLRI), signed the “Expression of Interest (EOI)” with “The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS)” project, a general-purpose detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of CERN. Thai researchers have opportunities to be trained and involved in several research projects at CERN. Summer Schools at CERN and DESY also provide opportunities for teachers and school students from Thailand to participate annually.

Proton therapy is an effective technique using high-energy physics for cancer treatment. Thailand's first proton therapy system was installed at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital (KCMH) in 2019. KCMH has collaborated with Suranaree University of Technology (SUT) to explore the possibility of developing a proton computed tomography (pCT) prototype [2]1. According to the roadmap, the pCT prototype is expected to be designed and installed in 2026. The pCT prototype will be one of Thailand's flagship projects in high-energy physics in Thailand, which will enhance the development of Thai scientists and engineers in high-energy physics.

It is expected that the further development of high-energy physics in Thailand will lead to novel research projects on high-energy physics and astrophysics, which could trigger the development of the HEP industry in Thailand by 2030 for advanced detectors and materials, big data and artificial intelligence, and beam therapy Fig. 4.

Fig. 4
figure 4

The strategic roadmap on high energy physics [1]

Plasma physics and technology

Since the Thailand Tokamak-I (TT-1) was installed in early 2023 by the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT), plasma diagnostic systems have also been designed and implemented to conduct experiments in high confinement modes. Sector K is designated for the installation of the HIBP diagnostic system and can offer non-disturbing, local measurement of plasma electric potential and various plasma parameters as shown in Fig. 5. The HIBP system consists of two main components: (1) the primary beam injection, and (2) the detection of the secondary beam. In the injection system, the incident direction of the primary beam into the plasma is controlled by two pairs of electrostatic sweepers. For detecting the secondary beam, the electric field is produced by electrostatic sweepers, each with a length of 0.25 m and inclined at 30 degrees. Candidate ions, such as Cs + (n̄e ≤ 1 × 1019 m−3), Rb + , and K + (n̄e ≥ 1 × 1019 m−3), with varying energies, are evaluated for their suitability based on beam attenuation and plasma density conditions. This provides valuable insights for integrating the HIBP diagnostic system into TT-1, enabling investigations of H-mode plasma physics phenomena.

Fig. 5
figure 5

The TT-1 vacuum vessel (top-view) for all diagnostic systems installation [3] with permission from Elsevier

Low-temperature atmospheric pressure plasma is a new technology that is the alternative modality for treating many conditions, e.g., deducting the number of bacteria and their biofilm to heal chronic wounds for plasma medicine. There are forthcoming studies generating and characterizing plasma medical solutions (PMS) [4]. To optimize PMS for cancerous cells and anti-viral efficacy: in vitro before an in vivo biocompatibility and antiviral effect test. PMS could potentially be used for the treatment of respiratory infections, thus respiratory infectious virus treatment device through safety and efficacy verification in animal models before further pre-clinical evaluation of the PMS. Nightingale® is a pulse-controllable cold air plasma jet device using the surrounding air in the environment to generate reactive oxygen–nitrogen species (RONS), including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), peroxynitrite (ONOO), hydroxyl (.OH), free oxygen atoms (O), and ozone (O3). These ions interact with surrounding H2O molecules, forming hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), nitrite (NO2), nitrate (NO3), nitrous acid (HNO2), and nitric acid (HNO3). Applying cold air plasma to living tissue results in elevated intracellular nitric oxide (NO) and other RONS levels that might act as cellular signaling molecules that promote cellular survival and proliferation and stimulate factors for the tissue-healing process.

Other plasma technologies are based on a “solution plasma” process to circumvent complex preparation steps and offer an environmentally friendly approach, by applying a solution plasma in synthesizing efficient energy storage materials based on MnO2 [5]. The method is extended to cover composites involving reduced graphene oxide (rGO) as a starting precursor, an ordinarily complex precursor for preparing metal composites in an aqueous environment. A lab-scale prototype will also be developed to illustrate the potential of the solution plasma-synthesized rGO-MnO2 composite and its promise for commercial prospects. Further, it investigates the effect of the annealing process at various temperatures and annealing times on the electrochemical properties and performance of the composites synthesized Fig. 6.

Fig. 6
figure 6

Cyclic voltammograms for rGO-MnO2 composites prepared using different durations of solution plasma [5]. (Courtesy of P. Pakawatpanurut, with his permission)

ThEP center: physics hub for Thailand

The ThEP Center guides progress corresponding with the goals specified in the 13th National Economic and Social Development Plan driving advancements in physics, technology, innovation, and central research facilities. Concurrently, the research community at the ThEP Center investigates quantum materials like topological insulators, superconductors, magnetic materials, and 2D materials such as graphene (Fig. 7), applying findings to electronics, optics, and quantum technologies [6, 7].


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  10. For additional details, please visit: https://www.thep-center.org

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[Source: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s43673-024-00119-5]