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Construction of 4GLS Not Yet Started

Posted March. 13, 2007 03:16,   

한국어

“Korea’s basic science needs help. The construction of the ‘4th Generation Light Source (4GLS)’ is behind schedule. We may fall behind advanced nations if we don’t hurry.” That`s what Park Chan-mo, the president of POSTECH, and Goh In-soo, the director of Pohang Accelerator Labotory (PAL), told our newspaper on March 9.

Light source accelerates electrons to near light speed to produce light of different wavelengths and luminous intensity. Researchers can make use of light to study movement, surface structure, and molecule structure of tiny cells and metals.

Light source is not just a laboratory only for physicists; it can also generate tens of billions of won in economic benefits. For example, Samsung Electronics conducted a nondestructive inspection of cell phones on PAL in 1999. The company found mismatched parts and impurities in semiconductor elements. As a result, they were able to reduce the rate of errors from 70 percent to 10 percent.

POSCO also found out that impurities in tin causes steel used for LNG ships to easily break under pressure in 2000. This research helped Korea develop one of the most advanced steel technologies.

Such achievements would not be possible without the 3rd Generation Light Source established in PAL of POSTECH in 1994. The government spent 59.6 billion won and POSCO 86.4 billion won to build this linear accelerator. This research facility now belongs to the public; about 2,000 researchers use the facility every year, and international science journals publish 700 or more papers about the researches.

“Some jokingly remarked that a furnace can produce a fused iron, but a light source can only produce light. But when they realized that a light source can have economic benefits, they didn’t repeat this joke again,” said one official of PAL.

POSTECH plans to upgrade the current 3GLS, 160 meters long and able to produce light one billion times brighter than the sun, to 4GLS, which is 350 meters long and able to emit light one billion times brighter than the existing one. But they are frustrated at the lack of money.

4GLS is essential to various researches. For example, as chemists can see how hydrogen is spilt from water with 4GLS, they can develop source technologies for alternative energy. Also, biotechnology researchers dearly need 4GLS as it helps to analyze protein structure. Only about 2,000 proteins have been analyzed so far and more analysis can greatly contribute to developing new medicines and leading the biotechnology industry.

Unlike other nations which need to spend hundreds of billions of won to build a 4GLS, Korea only needs 100 billion won as upgrading the existing facility will suffice. The initial plan was to start upgrading in 2005 with completion scheduled for 2009. But while others speed up, Korea has been still slow to start.

The United States will build a one-kilometer-long linear 4GLS by the end of 2008. Japan and Germany made their own initial version at the end of 2006 and are continuing to invest and aiming for the completion of the project within three to four years. Japan has increased the budget for the project dramatically after it heard that Korea planned to build a 4GLS.

In July 2004, President Roh said the government would increase the budget. But the Ministry of Science and Technology, in charge of the project, only gave a fraction of the budget: 400 million won in each 2005 and 2006 and one billion won in 2007 only for designing. The ministry said it should spend more on the Space Research Complex in Goheung of North Jeolla Province, and the National Fusion Research Center in Daejeon.

“We can upgrade the existing 3GLS to 4GLS by 2010 if we can get enough money. If we can build it faster than our competitors, we will lead the market in the alternative energy and biotechnology. We ought not to miss this opportunity,” director Goh said.



ceric@donga.com