I belong to the Pucadyil Family, an old Syrian Christian family from Central Travancore. The ancestral home is in Karapuzha, Kottayam. I had my early education at the CMS High School in Kottayam followed by study at the University Intermediate College, Trivandrum. I studied for my Bachelor's degree in Physics at the St. Berchman’s College, Changanassery. I did my postgraduation at the Union Christian College, Aluva from where I received my M.Sc degree in Physics in 1962.
In 1964 I joined the Aligarh Muslim University to work for a Ph. D degree. I set up an experiment to simulate the phenomenon of Ionospheric Cross Modulation, where a strong electromagnetic field modifies the plasma such that a weak wave passing through the plasma picks up the modulation of the strong wave. I received the Ph. D degree in Physics in 1969 and remained at the Physics Department until 1972 pursuing experiments on the interaction of strong electromagnetic fields with plasma.
In 1972, I was invited to join the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad to set up an experimental programme of fundamental research in Plasma Physics with relevance to space plasmas. The experiments included successful simulations of the equatorial electrojet instabilities and the solar wind- comet interaction. The experiments were chosen to enable us to acquire technical competence in areas relevant to Fusion research. Another highlight of the PRL phase was the successful indigenous development of Gigawatt pulsed power technology and its application to the formation of an intense electron beam ring in a toroidal device.
In 1982, I was one of the members of a group of scientists, who convinced the Government of India of the necessity of establishing an indigenous programme of research in Thermonuclear Fusion. The programme, originally called Plasma Physics Programme (PPP), evolved into the Institute for Plasma Research in 1986. The first Indian Tokamak, ADITYA was built under this programme. Experiments in ADITYA have been dedicated to edge turbulence studies and the intermittency in tokamak edge turbulence was discovered in ADITYA. The results indicated that the particle transport in tokamaks was not a steady ooze but came out in bursts.
Fundamental research included path breaking experiments on Non-Neutral Electron Plasmas. Major contributions have been in the discovery of low aspect ratio toroidal non-neutral plasma equilibrium, development of a technique for the formation of non-neutral toroidal plasmas in steady state, improvement in confinement and suppression of instabilities as well as overall stabilization of current free plasmas by azimuthal rotation by radial electric field.
I conceptualised a toroidal version of the ‘Malmberg’ trap with parallel electron injection and realised it through an experiment. The work is being continued with important observations of non-neutral equilibrium and first observations on toroidal diocotron instabilities.
In 1990, I took an initiative to apply our knowledge of Plasma Physics and device building to the development of industrially relevant applications of Plasma Physics. The Plasma Processing Programme explored unique opportunities in high energy density material processing with high value addition. The programme was industry-driven to make it agile and responsive to rapid changes and focused on a few thrust areas where immediate impact would be possible. Financial self-reliance was an important goal. The two decades of experience of the institute in the production and manipulation of plasmas and the expertise in associated technologies was mobilized for the generation and commercial diffusion of industry- relevant technologies.
This commercialization of IPR knowledge base in plasma sciences and associated technologies was achieved through developing strong linkage with industries via proactive interaction and supplying them with techno-commercial information using a variety of platforms like newsletters, workshops for consultants and entrepreneurs, participation in national and international trade fairs etc. Various selection criteria, like commercial , societal and strategic benefits were used in short-listing technologies eventually selected for development.
A mix of Industry - Government funding was used for the actual development and transfer of technologies.The technologies transferred to industries include Plasma Nitriding, Plasma-Aided Silicon Dioxide deposition, Plasma Etching of Angora Wool for enhancing spinnability, Plasma Sources for nanoparticle generation, Cold plasma applicators for medical applications and Plasma Pyrolysis for Medical and Organic Waste.
In 1997, I set up the Facilitation Centre for Industrial Plasma Technologies (FCIPT), which successfully demonstrated that it was possible to translate knowledge in Physics into industrially and strategically relevant technologies in surface engineering, environmental remediation, material synthesis etc. in a commercially viable manner. In 2006, FCIPT moved into its own campus in the Industrial Estate in Gandhinagar.
In 2002-03 I spent close to a year at the International Atomic Energy Agency as the Head of its Physics Division. I acted as scientific secretary for the 40 th meeting of the International Fusion Research Council at Lyon on October 13, 2002. The meeting assessed the increasing world-wide interest in fusion, discussed means of enhancing international cooperation, reviewed the International Tokamak Physics Activity, and noted the progress of ITER and the need to maintain a vigorous research programme once ITER construction starts.
I acted as scientific secretary for the 19 th Fusion Energy Conference at Lyon, France (Oct 14-18, 2002). Significant developments in the performance of large fusion experiments, advances in critical technologies and new and innovative concepts were reported.
I represented the Agency at the 32 nd Meeting of the Fusion Power Co-ordination Committee held on 27 January 2003 at the International Energy Agency Headquarters, Paris, France. I reported on the Agency’s activities in promoting Fusion and Plasma Research and discussed with the officials of IEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency on various means of improving the co-operation between the Agency and these organizations in promoting fusion research.
I represented the Agency at the Fifth Symposium on Current Trends inInternational Fusion Research: A Review held in Washington, USA from 24-29 March 2003. I was a member of the Steering Committee, Chair for the session on Magnetic Confinement and Other Approaches and Chair of a committee for preparing a report of the meeting to be published in Journal of Fusion Technology. I reported on the Agency’s activities in promoting international co-operation in plasma physics and fusion research. I discussed with many participants on enhancing the role of IAEA in supporting plasma physics and fusion research in the changed context of ITER programme progressing into the execution phase.
As a member of the Standing Expert Committee on SST-1, I took part in the analysis on the failure of its commissioning which concluded that the absence of systematic engineering validation and rigorous component level experiments in SST-1 were the causes. Work required in the redesign and re- engineering of the Superconducting magnet joints and other subsystems were identified. As Chairman of the SST Mission Board, I put into place procedures for ensuring greater transparency in matters of engineering associated with SST-1 activities. The practice of systematic experimental validation for verifying functional and design requirements of the subsystems was established. A technically credible programme of recommissioning SST-1 was put in place.
As part of India's effort in joining the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project, I co-ordinated the visits of various international teams, which assessed the status of Indian fusion research and industrial capability prior to India being considered for entry into ITER.
In 2006, I participated in the negotiations leading to India becoming a partner in the ITER project . I have been a member of the ITER Council and have made technical contributions as a member of the Science and Technology Advisory Committee of ITER. I served as a member of the Management Advisory Committee of ITER
With India’s entry into ITER, I developed the National Fusion Programme in 2008 for broadening the base of Indian research in fusion science and technology by funding universities and educational institutions in research. I served as Chairman, Board of Research in Fusion Sciences and Technology until 2018 when the programme was taken over by the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences. Since the University participants select problems under the guidance of IPR faculty, the NFP programme acts in a way to extend the IPR efforts in all areas of fusion science and technology and build technical competence in the critical area of fusion technology.
I enjoy writing articles and books to interpret plasma physics and its applications to the agents of change: entrepreneurs, businessmen, consultants and technocrats. A newsletter " Plasma Processing Update" informed them about the emerging developments in industrial applications. The book, "Plasma Sciences and the Creation of Wealth" published in 2005 discusses the versatility of plasma as an enabling tool for industrial, manufacturing, environmental and engineering applications. It is an introduction to the technology, practice and the commercial aspects of plasma- assisted manufacturing. This book was published in 2005 by the Tata- McGraw-Hill Publishers, New Delhi. This book has been translated into Chinese.
A second book, a monograph titled "Plasma Processes for Energy and Environment" explores the pervasive role of plasma in some areas related to energy and environment. This was electronically published by Lambert Publishers in 2013.
I brought out an ebook titled Experiments with Plasmas, detailing my struggles with setting up and doing plasma physics experiments at the Aligarh Muslim University, the Physical Research Laboratory and the Institute for Plasma Research. The intention is to communicate with young research scientists and students on the triumphs as well as tribulations associated with a career in experimental Plasma Physics.
As Senior Professor and the Meghnad Saha Chair in Plasma Science and Technology at the Institute for Plasma Research, I have contributed significantly to the nucleation and growth of Plasma Physics and Fusion Research by contributing to capacity building, human resource development and institution building. In recognition of these contributions to Science and Technology, the Government of India honoured me with Padma Shri in 2010. This was followed by the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church honouring me by awarding the Athanassius Medal in the same year.
My interests transcend science. I paint in oils and write poetry. My book of poetry “Feng Shui and Other Poems” has been published online. I am a mentor to InCube Ventures Ltd. Ahmedabad; the first social venture approved by SEBI.
I am associated with the MGU Innovation Hub, a Section 8 Company conceived to create an innovation ecosystem to support innovative ideas to be transformed into commercial products to benefit the society. In tune with the global trends in higher technological education, Mahatma Gandhi University encourages entrepreneurship among the Faculty, Staff, Research Scholars, and Students.
After retirement and return to Kottayam in 2013, I am actively involved with the Senior Citizens’ Forum, Kottayam and help the elders acquire expertise in computer and internet usage. I also acted as its President for a few years.
I am married to Minnu who belongs to the Nellikal family. We have two children
Our elder son, Joseph serves with the Roche Diagnostics in Switzerland as the International Business Leader; Laboratory Software Solutions. Joseph’s family consists of Janaki, his wife and Rahul their son. Rahul is a computer scientist
Our second son, Thomas, a Biologist is a Professor with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. Thomas’s family consists of his wife Shanti and their son Nikhil.