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Interview with Michael Liverts

Published Feb 15, 2022
Michael Liverts

Tell us a bit about yourself and your educational background; what inspired your interest in your field?

I received my M.Sc. in Physics and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. I came to KTH in 2014, when I joined the group of Prof. Nicholas Apazidis as a postdoc at the Department of Mechanics (today it is Engineering Mechanics). After the postdoc I was lucky enough to get my assistant professor position in 2017, and to be promoted to associate professor in 2020.

My early research activity during M.Sc. studies revolved around various projects spanning from chemical engineering to geo/astro-physics. However, the curiosity in principles of fluid mechanics along with my passion for experimental research eventually guided me towards my Ph.D. studies in the realm of compressible flow, and in particular shock wave physics, which remains one of my main research areas also today.

Receiving a new grant must be exciting. What did you receive the grant for, and what is your plan been in utilizing the grant?

Exciting indeed! The grant is for developing techniques for generation of extreme states and studying properties of matter under such conditions. Extreme states are very usually associated with ultra-high pressures and star temperatures, while the exactly opposite ranges, namely ultra-low pressures and rarefied densities are not less extreme and unexplored conditions. The project aims at developing robust, reliable, and effective techniques for both extreme compression and tension of liquids. Usually ultra-high pressures, those comparable with the pressure in the Earth core, demand unique and expensive facilities with quite limited access. DYNPRESS challenges this limitation to allow generation of such conditions using resources available in everyday research environment. The project is planned to kick-off in September, it aims at bringing two PhD students and one postdoc to KTH, who together with me will challenge those problems raised in the project.

What is your research about?

I would classify my research activity in the following rather broader categories, each spanning across a wide spectrum of basic-to-applied subjects: (1) Extreme states of fluids; and (2) Dynamic measurement methods. Based on a fair amount of knowledge on shock wave physics acquired during recent years, these categories build a solid basis for my ongoing and future research. Some of the sub-areas require interdisciplinary teams combining fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, chemical engineering, plasma physics, metrology science and thus creating an ever-expanding scientific network both on local and international scales.

What are the biggest challenges your work/research combats?

The properties of matter in extreme states have been and remain of considerable interest in various sciences. It has also become especially important in a number of practical applications, e.g., controlled thermo-nuclear fusion, synthesis of materials, mechanical treatment of materials, plasma technologies, medical applications, etc. My research aiming at relevant generation methods is an inherent part of most of these applications, with the biggest challenge to be able to control those methods and not the other way around.

Are you planning to develop your research in new directions?

Due to the mainly experimental nature this is a rather inevitable situation. For any single answer one can often easily get a few new questions and challenges that eventually develop into new directions. DYNPRESS is one such example, where in some parts we are going to challenge research questions that are new to the group, for example, generation of tensions in liquids. Having successfully established the technique, it opens a whole new field of research to be conducted in our laboratory.

What were the effects of the pandemic on your work?

With the major focus on experimental work, we felt the pandemic strongly. The situation limits access to the lab and thus unfortunately the progress slows down. Nevertheless, we did our best and managed to perform in all the running projects. Let us hope though that things will settle down soon, as the lab as well as the team are about to considerably grow once the project starts after the coming summer.

Text: Elina Charatsidou