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KAIST Announces the Recipients of Distinguished Alumni Awards
The KAIST Alumni Association (KAA) announced four “Proud KAIST Alumni” awards recipients for the year 2014: Sung-Wook Park, the Chief Executive Officer and President of SK Hynix; Seung Ho Shin, the President of Kangwon National University; Kew-Ho Lee, the President of the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology; and Mun-Kee Choi, the former Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea. The award ceremony took place during the 2015 KAA’s New Year's ceremony on January 17, 2015 at the Palace Hotel in Seoul. Sung-Wook Park (M.S. ’82 and Ph.D. ’88, Department of Materials Science and Engineering), the Chief Executive Officer and President of SK Hynix, has worked as an expert in the field of memory semi-conductors for the past 30 years. He developed innovative technology and improved production efficiency, enabling the Korean semi-conductor industry to become a global leader. Seung Ho Shin (M.S. ’79 and Ph.D. ’87, Department of Physics), the President of Kangwon National University (KNU), worked in the field of optical information processing, producing excellent research achievements and teaching the next generation of scientists. As the president of KNU, he has set an exemplary leadership in higher education. Kew-Ho Lee (M.S. ’75, Department of Chemistry), the President of the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, pioneered the field of separation film production which contributed greatly to Korean technological developments. He led several domestic and international societies to facilitate dynamic exchanges between industry and academia and with the international community. Mun-Kee Choi (M.S. ’76, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering), the former Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the Republic of Korea, is a great contributor to the information and communications technology in Korea, working as a leader in the field of broadband integrated service digital network. He is also an educator for gifted students in science and technology, and a manager of the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute. The Alumni Association established the “Proud KAIST Alumni Awards” in 1992 to recognize its alumni’s outstanding contributions to Korea and KAIST. Pictured from left to right, Sung-Wook Park (the Chief Executive Officer and President of SK Hynix), Seung Ho Shin (the President of Kangwon National University), Kew-Ho Lee (the President of the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology), and Mun-Kee Choi (the former Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning)
Breakthrough in Flexible Electronics Enabled by Inorganic-based Laser Lift-off
Flexible electronics have been touted as the next generation in electronics in various areas, ranging from consumer electronics to bio-integrated medical devices. In spite of their merits, insufficient performance of organic materials arising from inherent material properties and processing limitations in scalability have posed big challenges to developing all-in-one flexible electronics systems in which display, processor, memory, and energy devices are integrated. The high temperature processes, essential for high performance electronic devices, have severely restricted the development of flexible electronics because of the fundamental thermal instabilities of polymer materials. A research team headed by Professor Keon Jae Lee of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST provides an easier methodology to realize high performance flexible electronics by using the Inorganic-based Laser Lift-off (ILLO). The ILLO process involves depositing a laser-reactive exfoliation layer on rigid substrates, and then fabricating ultrathin inorganic electronic devices, e.g., high density crossbar memristive memory on top of the exfoliation layer. By laser irradiation through the back of the substrate, only the ultrathin inorganic device layers are exfoliated from the substrate as a result of the reaction between laser and exfoliation layer, and then subsequently transferred onto any kind of receiver substrate such as plastic, paper, and even fabric. This ILLO process can enable not only nanoscale processes for high density flexible devices but also the high temperature process that was previously difficult to achieve on plastic substrates. The transferred device successfully demonstrates fully-functional random access memory operation on flexible substrates even under severe bending. Professor Lee said, “By selecting an optimized set of inorganic exfoliation layer and substrate, a nanoscale process at a high temperature of over 1000 °C can be utilized for high performance flexible electronics. The ILLO process can be applied to diverse flexible electronics, such as driving circuits for displays and inorganic-based energy devices such as battery, solar cell, and self-powered devices that require high temperature processes.” The team’s results were published in the November issue of Wiley’s journal, ‘ Advanced Materials, ’ as a cover article entitled “ Flexible Crossbar-Structured Resistive Memory Arrays on Plastic Substrates via Inorganic-Based Laser Lift-Off.” ( http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201402472/abstract ) This schematic picture shows the flexible crossbar memory developed via the ILLO process. This photo shows the flexible RRAM device on a plastic substrate.
Extracting Light from Graphite: Core Technology of Graphene Quantum Dots Display Developed
Professor Seokwoo Jeon of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor Yong-Hoon Cho of the Department of Physics, and Professor Seunghyup Yoo of the Department of Electrical Engineering announced that they were able to develop topnotch graphene quantum dots from graphite. Using the method of synthesizing graphite intercalation compound from graphite with salt and water, the research team developed graphene quantum dots in an ecofriendly way. The quantum dots have a diameter of 5 nanometers with their sizes equal and yield high quantum efficiency. Unlike conventional quantum dots, they are not comprised of toxic materials such as lead or cadmium. As the quantum dots can be developed from materials which can be easily found in the nature, researchers look forward to putting these into mass production at low cost. The research team also discovered a luminescence mechanism of graphene quantum dots and confirmed the possibility of commercial use by developing quantum dot light-emitting diodes with brightness of 1,000 cd/m2, which is greater than that of cellphone displays. Professor Seokwoo Jeon said, “Although quantum dot LEDs have a lower luminous efficiency than existing ones, their luminescent property can be further improved” and emphasized that “using quantum dot displays will allow us to develop not only paper-thin displays but also flexible ones.” Sponsored by Graphene Research Center in KAIST Institute for NanoCentury, the research finding was published online in the April 20th issue of Advanced Optical Materials. Picture 1: Graphene quantum dots and their synthesis Picture 2: Luminescence mechanism of graphene quantum dots Picture 3: Structure of graphene quantum dots LED and its emission
The First Demonstration of a Self-powered Cardiac Pacemaker
As the number of pacemakers implanted each year reaches into the millions worldwide, improving the lifespan of pacemaker batteries has been of great concern for developers and manufacturers. Currently, pacemaker batteries last seven years on average, requiring frequent replacements, which may pose patients to a potential risk involved in medical procedures. A research team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), headed by Professor Keon Jae Lee of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST and Professor Boyoung Joung, M.D. of the Division of Cardiology at Severance Hospital of Yonsei University, has developed a self-powered artificial cardiac pacemaker that is operated semi-permanently by a flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator. The artificial cardiac pacemaker is widely acknowledged as medical equipment that is integrated into the human body to regulate the heartbeats through electrical stimulation to contract the cardiac muscles of people who suffer from arrhythmia. However, repeated surgeries to replace pacemaker batteries have exposed elderly patients to health risks such as infections or severe bleeding during operations. The team’s newly designed flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator directly stimulated a living rat’s heart using electrical energy converted from the small body movements of the rat. This technology could facilitate the use of self-powered flexible energy harvesters, not only prolonging the lifetime of cardiac pacemakers but also realizing real-time heart monitoring. The research team fabricated high-performance flexible nanogenerators utilizing a bulk single-crystal PMN-PT thin film (iBULe Photonics). The harvested energy reached up to 8.2 V and 0.22 mA by bending and pushing motions, which were high enough values to directly stimulate the rat’s heart. Professor Keon Jae Lee said: “For clinical purposes, the current achievement will benefit the development of self-powered cardiac pacemakers as well as prevent heart attacks via the real-time diagnosis of heart arrhythmia. In addition, the flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator could also be utilized as an electrical source for various implantable medical devices.” This research result was described in the April online issue of Advanced Materials (“Self-Powered Cardiac Pacemaker Enabled by Flexible Single Crystalline PMN-PT Piezoelectric Energy Harvester”: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201400562/abstract). Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWYT2cU_Mog&feature=youtu.be Picture Caption: A self-powered cardiac pacemaker is enabled by a flexible piezoelectric energy harvester.
KAIST Made Great Improvements of Nanogenerator Power Efficiency
The energy efficiency of a piezoelectric nanogenerator developed by KAIST has increased by almost 40 times, one step closer toward the commercialization of flexible energy harvesters that can supply power infinitely to wearable, implantable electronic devices. NANOGENERATORS are innovative self-powered energy harvesters that convert kinetic energy created from vibrational and mechanical sources into electrical power, removing the need of external circuits or batteries for electronic devices. This innovation is vital in realizing sustainable energy generation in isolated, inaccessible, or indoor environments and even in the human body. Nanogenerators, a flexible and lightweight energy harvester on a plastic substrate, can scavenge energy from the extremely tiny movements of natural resources and human body such as wind, water flow, heartbeats, and diaphragm and respiration activities to generate electrical signals. The generators are not only self-powered, flexible devices but also can provide permanent power sources to implantable biomedical devices, including cardiac pacemakers and deep brain stimulators. However, poor energy efficiency and a complex fabrication process have posed challenges to the commercialization of nanogenerators. Keon Jae Lee, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST, and his colleagues have recently proposed a solution by developing a robust technique to transfer a high-quality piezoelectric thin film from bulk sapphire substrates to plastic substrates using laser lift-off (LLO). Applying the inorganic-based laser lift-off (LLO) process, the research team produced a large-area PZT thin film nanogenerators on flexible substrates (2cm x 2cm). “We were able to convert a high-output performance of ~250 V from the slight mechanical deformation of a single thin plastic substrate. Such output power is just enough to turn on 100 LED lights,” Keon Jae Lee explained. The self-powered nanogenerators can also work with finger and foot motions. For example, under the irregular and slight bending motions of a human finger, the measured current signals had a high electric power of ~8.7 μA. In addition, the piezoelectric nanogenerator has world-record power conversion efficiency, almost 40 times higher than previously reported similar research results, solving the drawbacks related to the fabrication complexity and low energy efficiency. Lee further commented, “Building on this concept, it is highly expected that tiny mechanical motions, including human body movements of muscle contraction and relaxation, can be readily converted into electrical energy and, furthermore, acted as eternal power sources.” The research team is currently studying a method to build three-dimensional stacking of flexible piezoelectric thin films to enhance output power, as well as conducting a clinical experiment with a flexible nanogenerator. This research result, entitled “Highly-efficient, Flexible Piezoelectric PZT Thin Film Nanogenerator on Plastic Substrates,” was published as the cover article of the April issue of Advanced Materials. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201305659/abstract) YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_Fny7Xb9ig Over 100 LEDs operated by self-powered flexible piezoelectric thin film nanogenerator Flexible PZT thin film nanogenerator using inorganic-based laser lift-off process Photograph of large-area PZT thin film nanogenerator (3.5cm × 3.5cm) on a curved glass tube and 105 commercial LEDs operated by self-powered flexible piezoelectric energy harvester
Core Technology for Lithium Air Secondary Battery Developed
KAIST-Kyonggi University joint research team developed composite catalyst out of nano fiber and graphene Five times improvement in capacity compared to lithium-ion secondary battery, driving 800 km at maximum The core technology for lithium air secondary battery, the next generation high capacity battery, has been developed. A research team formed by KAIST Department of Materials Science’s Professors Il-Doo Kim and Seokwoo Jeon, and Kyonggi University Department of Materials Science’s Professor Yong-Joon Park has created a lithium air secondary battery, with five times greater storage than the lithium-ion secondary battery, by developing a nano fiber-graphene composite catalyst. The research results are published in the August 8th online edition of Nano Letters. A cathode of a lithium-ion battery consists of graphite and an anode of the battery consists of a lithium transition metal oxide. Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in mobile phones and laptops. However, lithium-ion batteries cannot support electric vehicles, providing energy for only 160 kilometers on one full charge. The lithium air secondary battery just developed by the research team uses lithium on the cathode and oxygen on the anode. It is earning a popular acknowledgement among the next generation secondary battery research community for having lightweight mass and high energy density. However, lithium-ion batteries remain difficult to commercialize because of their short lifespan. Lithium and oxygen meet up to form lithium oxide (Li2O2) at discharge, and decompose again at charge. In a traditional lithium air battery, this cycle does not occur smoothly and results in high resistance, thereby reducing the lifespan of the battery. It is thus essential to develop high efficiency catalyst that facilitates the formation and decomposition of lithium oxides. The research team used electric radiation to develop a nano composite catalyst by mixing cobalt oxide nano fiber and graphene. The performance of the battery has been maximized by settling nonoxidative graphene, which has high specific surface area and electrical conductivity, on catalyst active cobalt oxide nano fiber. Applying the nano composite catalyst on both poles of the lithium air battery resulted in an improved lifespan of over 80 recharge cycles with capacity greater than 100mAh/g, five times greater than a lithium ion battery. The newly discovered charge-discharge property is the highest among the reported performances of the lithium air battery so far. The lithium air battery is cheap to make, as the main materials are metal oxide and graphene. “There are yet more issues to resolve such as stability, but we will collaborate with other organizations to open up the era of electronic vehicles,” said Professor Il-Doo Kim. “We hope to contribute to vitalizing the fields of next generation lithium air battery by leading nanocatalyst synthesis technology, one of the core materials in the fields of secondary battery,” Professor Kim spoke of his aspiration. The graduate students participated in the research are Won-Hee Ryu, a postdoctorate at KAIST Department of Materials Science, Sungho Song, a PhD candidate at KAIST Department of Materials Science, and Taek-Han Yoon, a graduate student at Kyonggi University. Picture I: Schematic Diagram of Lithium Air Battery Made of Nano Composite Catalysts Picture II: Images of Cobalt Oxide Nano Fibers and Graphene Nano Composite Catalysts Picture III: Images of Manufacturing Process of Cobalt Oxide Nano Fibers and Graphene Nano Composite Catalysts for Lithium Air Battery
Nanofiber sensor detects diabetes or lung cancer faster and easier
Metal-oxide nanofiber based chemiresistive gas sensors offer greater usability for portable real-time breath tests that can be available on smart phones or tablet PCs in the near future. Daejeon, Republic of Korea, June 11, 2013 -- Today"s technological innovation enables smartphone users to diagnose serious diseases such as diabetes or lung cancer quickly and effectively by simply breathing into a small gadget, a nanofiber breathing sensor, mounted on the phones. Il-Doo Kim, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Department at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and his research team have recently published a cover paper entitled "Thin-Wall Assembled SnO2 Fibers Functionalized by Catalytic Pt Nanoparticles and their Superior Exhaled Breath-Sensing Properties for the Diagnosis of Diabetes," in an academic journal, Advanced Functional Materials (May 20th issue), on the development of a highly sensitive exhaled breath sensor by using hierarchical SnO2 fibers that are assembled from wrinkled thin SnO2 nanotubes. In the paper, the research team presented a morphological evolution of SnO2 fibers, called micro phase-separations, which takes place between polymers and other dissolved solutes when varying the flow rate of an electrospinning solution feed and applying a subsequent heat treatment afterward. The morphological change results in nanofibers that are shaped like an open cylinder inside which thin-film SnO2 nanotubes are layered and then rolled up. A number of elongated pores ranging from 10 nanometers (nm) to 500 nm in length along the fiber direction were formed on the surface of the SnO2 fibers, allowing exhaled gas molecules to easily permeate the fibers. The inner and outer wall of SnO2 tubes is evenly coated with catalytic platinum (Pt) nanoparticles. According to the research team, highly porous SnO2 fibers, synthesized by eletrospinning at a high flow rate, showed five-fold higher acetone responses than that of the dense SnO2 nanofibers created under a low flow rate. The catalytic Pt coating shortened the fibers" gas response time dramatically as well. The breath analysis for diabetes is largely based on an acetone breath test because acetone is one of the specific volatile organic compounds (VOC) produced in the human body to signal the onset of particular diseases. In other words, they are biomarkers to predict certain diseases such as acetone for diabetes, toluene for lung cancer, and ammonia for kidney malfunction. Breath analysis for medical evaluation has attracted much attention because it is less intrusive than conventional medical examination, as well as fast and convenient, and environmentally friendly, leaving almost no biohazard wastes. Various gas-sensing techniques have been adopted to analyze VOCs including gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS), but these techniques are difficult to incorporate into portable real-time gas sensors because the testing equipment is bulky and expensive, and their operation is more complex. Metal-oxide based chemiresistive gas sensors, however, offer greater usability for portable real-time breath sensors. Il-Doo Kim said, "Catalyst-loaded metal oxide nanofibers synthesized by electrospinning have a great potential for future exhaled breath sensor applications. From our research, we obtained the results that Pt-coated SnO2 fibers are able to identify promptly and accurately acetone or toluene even at very low concentration less than 100 parts per billion (ppb)." The exhaled acetone level of diabetes patients exceeds 1.8 parts per million (ppm), which is two to six-fold higher than that (0.3-0.9 ppm) of healthy people. Therefore, a highly sensitive detection that responds to acetone below 1 ppm, in the presence of other exhaled gases as well as under the humid environment of human breath, is important for an accurate diagnosis of diabetes. In addition, Professor Kim said, "a trace concentration of toluene (30 ppb) in exhaled breath is regarded to be a distinctive early symptom of lung cancer, which we were able to detect with our prototype breath tester." The research team has now been developing an array of breathing sensors using various catalysts and a number of semiconducting metal oxide fibers, which will offer patients a real-time easy diagnosis of diseases. ### Youtube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_Hr11dRryg For further inquires: Il-Doo Kim, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, KAIST Advanced Nanomaterials and Energy Laboratory Tel: +82-42-350-3329 Email: email@example.com Clockwise from left to right: left upper shows a magnified SEM image of a broken thin-wall assembled SnO2 fiber. Left below is an array of breath sensors (Inset is an actual size of a breath sensor). The right is the cover of Advanced Functional Materials (May 20th issue) in which a research paper on the development of a highly sensitive exhaled breath sensor by using SnO2 fibers is published. This is the microstructural evolution of SnO2 nanofibers as a function of flow rate during electrospinning.
A KAIST research team developed in vivo flexible large scale integrated circuits
Daejeon, Republic of Korea, May 6th, 2013–-A team led by Professor Keon Jae Lee from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST has developed in vivo silicon-based flexible large scale integrated circuits (LSI) for bio-medical wireless communication. Silicon-based semiconductors have played significant roles in signal processing, nerve stimulation, memory storage, and wireless communication in implantable electronics. However, the rigid and bulky LSI chips have limited uses in in vivo devices due to incongruent contact with the curvilinear surfaces of human organs. Especially, artificial retinas recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (refer to the press release of FDA"s artificial retina approval) require extremely flexible and slim LSI to incorporate it within the cramped area of the human eye. Although several research teams have fabricated flexible integrated circuits (ICs, tens of interconnected transistors) on plastics, their inaccurate nano-scale alignment on plastics has restricted the demonstration of flexible nano-transistors and their large scale interconnection for in vivo LSI applications such as main process unit (MPU), high density memory and wireless communication. Professor Lee"s team previously demonstrated fully functional flexible memory using ultrathin silicon membranes (Nano Letters, Flexible Memristive Memory Array on Plastic Substrates), however, its integration level and transistor size (over micron scale) have limited functional applications for flexible consumer electronics. Professor Keon Jae Lee"s team fabricated radio frequency integrated circuits (RFICs) interconnected with thousand nano-transistors on silicon wafer by state-of-the-art CMOS process, and then they removed the entire bottom substrate except top 100 nm active circuit layer by wet chemical etching. The flexible RF switches for wireless communication were monolithically encapsulated with biocompatible liquid crystal polymers (LCPs) for in vivo bio-medical applications. Finally, they implanted the LCP encapsulated RFICs into live rats to demonstrate the stable operation of flexible devices under in vivo circumstances. Professor Lee said, "This work could provide an approach to flexible LSI for an ideal artificial retina system and other bio-medical devices. Moreover, the result represents an exciting technology with the strong potential to realize fully flexible consumer electronics such as application processor (AP) for mobile operating system, high-capacity memory, and wireless communication in the near future." This result was published in the May online issue of the American Chemical Society"s journal, ACS Nano (In vivo Flexible RFICs Monolithically Encapsulated with LCP). They are currently engaged in commercializing efforts of roll-to-roll printing of flexible LSI on large area plastic substrates. Movie at Youtube Link: Fabrication process for flexible LSI for flexible display, wearable computer and artificial retina for in vivo biomedical application http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PpbM7m2PPs&feature=youtu.be Applications of in Vivo Flexible Large Scale Integrated Circuits Top: In vivo flexible large scale integrated circuits (LSI); Bottom: Schematic of roll-to-roll printing of flexible LSI on large area plastics.
Ultra Elastic Electrode Material Developed
KAIST research team succeeded in developing the next generation flexible and elastic electrode material crucial in the development of flexible displays, wearable computers, and etc. Professor Jeon Seok Woo’s team of the department of Materials Science and Engineering succeeded in the development of a super elastic material. The result of the experiment was introduced as the research highlight in Nature Communications and is especially significant as the main driving force behind the achievement were domestic researchers. Professor Jeons team developed a structured three dimensional nano-porous structure over a 1inch by 1inch area that is 10micrometers in thickness. The structure is fabricated using world’s largest area three dimensional nano patterning technique. The nano-porous structure was injected with elastomeric material and was subsequently removed to yield an inverse three dimensional elastic nano material. The pores were infiltrated with liquid conductive material which yielded a super elastic flexible electrode. The fabricated electrode showed amazing elasticity levels and was able to light LED lamps in a 200% stretched state without decrease in electrical conductivity. Conventional methods included folding and expanding a material like an accordion or creating a mesh-like structure by making holes in the material. However these methods yielded materials with limited elasticity and even 100% stretching resulted in the drastic decrease in electrical conductivity. Professor Jeon expects the domestically developed technology to obtain the upper hand in the market and make great contributions in both science and society.
Flexible Nanogenerator Technology
KAIST research team successfully developed the foundation technology that will enable to fabrication of low cost, large area nanogenerator. Professor Lee Gun Jae’s team (Department of Materials Science and Engineering) published a dissertation on a nanogenerator using nanocomplexes as the cover dissertation of the June edition of Advanced Materials. The developed technology is receiving rave reviews for having overcome the complex and size limitations of the nanogenerator fabrication process. A nanogenerator is an electricity generator that uses materials in the nanoscale and uses piezoelectricity that creates electricity with the application of physical force. The generation technology using piezoelectricity was appointed as one of top 10 promising technologies by MIT in 2009 and was included in the 45 innovative technologies that will shake the world by Popular Science Magazine in 2010. The only nanogenerator thus far was the ZnO model suggested by Georgia Tech’s Professor Zhong Lin Wang in 2005. Professor Lee’s team used ceramic thin film material BaTiO3 which has 15~20 times greater piezoelectric capacity than ZnO and thus improved the overall performance of the device. The use of a nanocomplex allows large scale production and the simplification of the fabrication process itself. The team created a mixture of PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane) with BaTiO3 and either of CNT (Carbon Nanotube) or RGO (Reduced Graphene Oxide) which has high electrical conductivity and applied this mixture to create a large scale nanogenerator.
High-resolution Atomic Imaging of Specimens in Liquid Observed by Transmission Electron Microscopes Using Graphene Liquid Cells
Looking into specimens in liquid at the atomic level to understand nanoscale processes so far regarded as impossible to witnessThe Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) announced that a research team from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering has developed a technology that enables scientists and engineers to observe processes occurring in liquid media on the smallest possible scale which is less than a nanometer. Professor Jeong Yong Lee and Researcher Jong Min Yuk, in collaboration with Professors Paul Alivisatos’s and Alex Zettl’s groups at the University of California, Berkeley, succeeded in making a graphene liquid cell or capsule, confining an ultra-thin liquid film between layers of graphene, for real-time and in situ imagining of nanoscale processes in fluids with atomic-level resolution by a transmission electron microscope (TEM). Their research was published in the April 6, 2012 issue of Science. (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6077/61.abstract) The graphene liquid cell (GLC) is composed of two sheets of graphene sandwiched to create a sealed chamber where a platinum growth solution is encapsulated in the form of a thin slice. Each graphene layer has a thickness of one carbon atom, the thinnest membrane that has ever been used to fabricate a liquid cell required for TEM. The research team peered inside the GLC to observe the growth and dynamics of platinum nanocrystals in solution as they coalesced into a larger size, during which the graphene membrane with the encapsulated liquid remained intact. The researchers from KAIST and the UC Berkeley identified important features in the ongoing process of the nanocrystals’ coalescence and their expansion through coalescence to form certain shapes by imaging the phenomena with atomic-level resolution. Professor Lee said, “It has now become possible for scientists to observe what is happening in liquids on an atomic level under transmission electron microscopes.” Researcher Yuk, one of the first authors of the paper, explained his research work. “This research will promote other fields of study related to materials in a fluid stage including physical, chemical, and biological phenomena at the atomic level and promises numerous applications in the future. Pending further studies on liquid microscopy, the full application of a graphene-liquid-cell (GLC) TEM to biological samples is yet to be confirmed. Nonetheless, the GLC is the most effective technique developed today to sustain the natural state of fluid samples or species suspended in the liquid for a TEM imaging.” The transmission electron microscope (TEM), first introduced in the 1930s, produces images at a significantly higher resolution than light microscopes, allowing users to examine the smallest level of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. Observations by TEM with atomic resolution, however, have been limited to solid and/or frozen samples, and thus it has previously been impossible to study the real time fluid dynamics of liquid phases. TEM imaging is performed in a high vacuum chamber in which a thin slice of the imaged sample is situated, and an electron beam passes through the slice to create an image. In this process, a liquid medium, unlike solid or frozen samples, evaporates, making it difficult to observe under TEM. Attempts to produce a liquid capsule have thus far been made with electron-transparent membranes of such materials as silicon nitride or silicon oxide; such liquid capsules are relatively thick (tens to one hundred nanometers), however, resulting in poor electron transmittance with a reduced resolution of only a few nanometers. Silicon nitride is 25 nanometers thick, whereas graphene is only 0.34 nanometers. Graphene, most commonly found in bulk graphite, is the thinnest material made out of carbon atoms. It has unique properties such as mechanical tensile strength, high flexibility, impermeability to small molecules, and high electrical conductivity. Graphene is an excellent material to hold micro- and nanoscopic objects for observation in a transmission electron microscope by minimizing scattering of the electron beam that irradiates a liquid sample while reducing charging and heating effects. ### Figure 1. Schematic illustration of graphene liquid cells. Sandwiched two sheets of graphene encapsulate a platinum growth solution. Figure 2. In-situ TEM observation of nanocrystal growth and shape evolution. TEM images of platinum nanocrystal coalescence and their faceting in the growth solution.
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