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Observation of the Phase Transition of Liquid Crystal Defects
KAIST researchers observed the phase transition of topological defects formed by liquid crystal (LC) materials for the first time. The phase transition of topological defects, which was also the theme of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2016, can be difficult to understand for a layperson but it needs to be studied to understand the mysteries of the universe or the underlying physics of skyrmions, which have intrinsic topological defects. If the galaxy is taken as an example in the universe, it is difficult to observe the topological defects because the system is too large to observe some changes over a limited period of time. In the case of defect structures formed by LC molecules, they are not only a suitable size to observe with an optical microscope, but also the time period in which the phase transition of a defect occurring can be directly observed over a few seconds, which can be extended to a few minutes. The defect structures formed by LC material have radial, circular, or spiral shapes centering on a singularity (defect core), like the singularity that was already introduced in the famous movie "Interstellar,” which is the center point of black hole. In general, LC materials are mainly used in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and optical sensors because it is easy to control their specific orientation and they have fast response characteristics and huge anisotropic optical properties. It is advantageous in terms of the performance of LCDs that the defects of the LC materials are minimized. The research team led by Professor Dong Ki Yoon in the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology did not simply minimize such defects but actively tried to use the LC defects as building blocks to make micro- and nanostructures for the patterning applications. During these efforts, they found the way to directly study the phase transition of topological defects under in-situ conditions. Considering the LC material from the viewpoint of a device like a LCD, robustness is important. Therefore, the LC material is injected through the capillary phenomenon between a rigid two-glass plate and the orientation of the LCs can be followed by the surface anchoring condition of the glass substrate. However, in this conventional case, it is difficult to observe the phase transition of the LC defect due to this strong surface anchoring force induced by the solid substrate. In order to solve this problem, the research team designed a platform, in which the movement of the LC molecules was not restricted, by forming a thin film of LC material on water, which is like oil floating on water. For this, a droplet of LC material was dripped onto water and spread to form a thin film. The topological defects formed under this circumstance could show the thermal phase transition when the temperature was changed. In addition, this approach can trace back the morphology of the original defect structure from the sequential changes during the temperature changes, which can give hints to the study of the formation of topological defects in the cosmos or skyrmions. Prof. Yoon said, “The study of LC crystal defects itself has been extensively studied by physicists and mathematicians for about 100 years. However, this is the first time that we have observed the phase transition of LC defects directly.” He also added, "Korea is leading in the LCD industry, but our basic research on LCs is not at the world's research level." The first author of this study is Dr. Min-Jun Gimand supported by a grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and funded by the Korean Government (MSIP). The research result was published on May 30, 2017 in Nature Communications. Figure 1. The phase transition of the LC topological defect on cooling. Figure 2. Polarizing optical microscopy images of topological defects depending on the strength of the director field. (a,b,e) Convergent director field arrangements of LC molecules and corresponding schematic images; (c,d,f) Divergent director field arrangements of LC molecules and corresponding schematic images.
Extreme Materials for Fusion with Metal Cocktail
The research team under Professor Ryu Ho-jin of the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering has developed a new material for facing fusion plasma environments using metal powder mixing technology. This technology is expected to extend the range of materials that can be designed for use in extreme environments such as in fusion power generators. The durability of the tokamak vessel, which holds high-temperature plasma, is very important to create fusion power reactors, which are expected to be a future energy source. Currently, high-melting-point metals, such as tungsten, are considered plasma-facing materials to protect the tokamak vessel. However, high-energy thermal shocks, plasma ions, and neutrons are fatal to the plasma-facing material during high temperature fusion plasma operation. Therefore, it is necessary to develop new high-performance materials. The ITER project, in which seven countries including the United States, the EU, and Korea participate jointly, is constructing a nuclear fusion experimental reactor in France with the goal of achieving the first plasma in 2025 and deuterium-tritium fusion operation in 2035. In Korea, the KSTAR tokamak at the National Fusion Research Institute has succeeded in maintaining high-performance plasma for 70 seconds. Researchers in Europe, the United States, and China, who are leading the research on fusion plasma-facing materials, are studying the improvement of physical properties by adding a small amount of metal elements to tungsten. However, Professor Ryu’s team reported that by mixing various metals’ powders, including tungsten, they have succeeded in producing a new material that has twice the hardness and strength of tungsten. The difference in the atomic sizes of the well-mixed elements in the alloy is very significant because it makes it difficult to deform the alloy. The team will continue its research to find alloying compositions that optimize mechanical properties as well as thermal conductivity, plasma interactions, neutron irradiation embrittlement, tritium absorption, and high-temperature oxidation properties. Professor Ryu said, "Fusion plasma-facing materials are exposed to extreme environments and no metal is capable of withstanding thermal shock, plasma, and neutron damage simultaneously. As a result of this research, attempts to develop complex metallic materials for nuclear fusion and nuclear power are expected to become more active around the world. " Ph.D. candidate Owais Ahmed Waseem is the first author of this project. The research is supported by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the Korea Research Foundation's Fusion Basic Research project, and the Engineering Research Center. The results were published in 'Scientific Report' on May 16. Figure 1. Tungsten-based high strengh alloy sample Figure 2. Fusion plasma facing material development by powder processing of refractory elements
Professor Jinah Park Received the Prime Minister's Award
Professor Jinah Park of the School of Computing received the Prime Minister’s Citation Ribbon on April 21 at a ceremony celebrating the Day of Science and ICT. The awardee was selected by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and Korea Communications Commission. Professor Park was recognized for her convergence R&D of a VR simulator for dental treatment with haptic feedback, in addition to her research on understanding 3D interaction behavior in VR environments. Her major academic contributions are in the field of medical imaging, where she developed a computational technique to analyze cardiac motion from tagging data. Professor Park said she was very pleased to see her twenty-plus years of research on ways to converge computing into medical areas finally bear fruit. She also thanked her colleagues and students in her Computer Graphics and CGV Research Lab for working together to make this achievement possible.
Tactile Sensor for Robot Skin Advanced by KAIST Team
The joint research team of Professors Jung Kim and Inkyu Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a tactile sensor that can act as skin for robots using silicon and carbon materials. This technology produced a sensor that can absorb shock and distinguish various forms of touch, and it is hoped to be used as robot skin in the future. Skin serves an important role as the largest organ of the human body. As well as protecting major organs from external shock, skin also measures and distinguishes delicate tactile information and transfer it to the nervous system. Current robotic sensory technology allows robots to have visual and auditory systems at nearly similar levels to human capacity, but there are limitations in tactile sensors that can detect changes in the environment throughout the body. To apply skin with similar functions as humans to robots, it is essential to develop skin sensor technology with high flexibility and high shock absorption. Another limitation for developing robot skin was connecting numerous sensors all over the body using electric wiring. To overcome this problem, the research team combined silicon and carbon nanotubes (CNT) to produce a composite, which was then used in combination with a medical imaging technique called electrical impedance tomography (EIT). This led to technology that can distinguish various forms of force over a large area without electrical wiring. The sensing material can distinguish the location and the size of various forms by touch, and thus can be applied to robot skin that can absorb shock as well as serves as a 3D computer interface and tactile sensor. It can withstand strong force such as a hammer strike, and can be re-used even after partial damage to the sensor by filling and hardening the damaged region with composite. Further, the sensor can be made by filling a 3D shape frame with silicon-nanotube composite. Using this technology, new forms of computer interaces can be developed with both curbed and flat surfaces. This research was conducted through a collaboration between Professor Park, an expert in nanostructures and sensors, and Professor Kim, an expert in bio-robotics. Hence, the technology is likely to be applied in real products. Professor Kim said, “Flexible tactile sensors can not only be directly adhered to the body, but they also provides information on modified states in multiple dimensions”. He continued, “This technology will contribute to the soft robot industry in the areas of robot skin and the field of wearable medical appliances.” Professor Park said, “This technology implemented a next-generation user interface through the integration of functional nano-composite material and computer tomography.” This research was published in Scientific Reports, a sister journal of Nature, online on January 25. This research was conducted as joint research by first author Hyo-Sang Lee, as well as Donguk Kwon and Ji-seung Cho, and was funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. (Fiigrue 1: Robotic hand responding to resistance via a connection with the developed tactile sensor) (Figure 2: Manufacturing process for pressure-resistant composite using silicon rubber and carbon nanotubes) (Figure 3: Computer interface using pressure-resistant composite)
Professor Won Do Heo Receives 'Scientist of the Month Award'
Professor Won Do Heo of the Department of Biological Sciences was selected as the “Scientist of the Month” for April 2017 by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the National Research Foundation of Korea. Professor Heo was recognized for his suggestion of a new biological research method developing various optogenetics technology which controls cell function by using light. He developed the technology using lasers or LED light, without the need for surgery or drug administration, to identify the cause of diseases related to calcium ions such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. The general technique used in optogenetics, that control cells in the body with light, is the simple activation and deactivation of neurons. Professor Heo developed a calcium ion channel activation technique (OptoSTIM1) to activate calcium ions in the body using light. He also succeeded in increasing calcium concentrations with light to enhance the memory capacity of mice two-fold. Using this technology, the desired amount and residing time of calcium ion influx can be controlled by changing light intensity and exposure periods, enabling the function of a single cell or various cells in animal tissue to be controlled remotely. The experimental results showed that calcium ion influx can be activated in cells that are affected by calcium ions, such as normal cells, cancer cells, and human embryonic stem cells. By controlling calcium concentrations with light, it is possible to control biological phenomena, such as cellular growth, neurotransmitter transmission, muscle contraction, and hormone control. Professor Heo said, “Until now, it was standard to use optogenetics to activate neurons using channelrhodopsin. The development of this new optogenetic technique using calcium ion channel activation can be applied to various biological studies, as well as become an essential research technique in neurobiology. The “Scientist of the Month Award” is given every month to one researcher who made significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology with their outstanding research achievement. The awardee will receive prize money of ten million won.
An Improved Carbon Nanotube Semiconductor
Professor Yang-Kyu Choi and his research team of the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST collaborated with Professor Sung-Jin Choi of Kookmin University to develop a large-scale carbon nanotube semiconductor by using a 3-D fin-gate structure with carbon nanotubes on its top. Dong Il Lee, a postdoctoral researcher at KAIST’s Electrical Engineering School, participated in this study as the first author. It was published in ACS Nano on November 10, 2016, and was entitled “Three-Dimensional Fin-Structured Semiconducting Carbon Nanotube Network Transistor.” A semiconductor made with carbon nanotubes operates faster than a silicon semiconductor and requires less energy, yielding higher performance. Most electronic equipment and devices, however, use silicon semiconductors because it is difficult to fabricate highly purified and densely packed semiconductors with carbon nanotubes (CNTs). To date, the performance of CNTs was limited due to their low density. Their purity was also low, so it was impossible to make products that had a constant yield on a large-surface wafer or substrate. These characteristics made the mass production of semiconducting CNTs difficult. To solve these difficulties, the research team used a 3-D fin-gate to vapor-deposit carbon nanotubes on its top. They developed a semiconductor that had a high current density with a width less than 50 nm. The three-dimensional fin structure was able to vapor-deposit 600 carbon nanotubes per micrometer. This structure could have 20 times more nanotubes than the two dimensional structure, which could only vapor-deposit thirty in the same 1 micrometer width. In addition, the research team used semi-conductive carbon nanotubes having a purity rating higher than 99.9% from a previous study to obtain a high yield semiconductor. The semiconductor from the research group has a high current density even with a width less than 50 μm. The new semiconductor is expected to be five times faster than a silicon-based semiconductor and will require five times less electricity during operation. Furthermore, the new semiconductor can be made by or will be compatible with the equipment for producing silicon-based semiconductors, so there will be no additional costs. Researcher Lee said, “As a next generation semiconductor, the carbon nanotube semiconductor will have better performance, and its effectiveness will be higher.” He also added, “Hopefully, the new semiconductor will replace the silicon-based semiconductors in ten years.” This study received support from the Center for Integrated Smart Sensors funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning of Korea as the Global Frontier Project, and from the CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) THz Technology Convergence Center of the Pioneer Research Center Program sponsored by the National Research Foundation of Korea. Picture 1: 3D Diagram of the Carbon Nanotube Electronic Device and Its Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Image Picture 2: 3D Transistor Device on an 8-inch Base and the SEM Image of Its Cross Section
Dr.M Drives Smart Healthcare Industry in Partnership with Hancom
President Sung-Mo Kang signed an agreement on January 25 with Hancom Group Chairman Sang Chul Kim to establish a smart healthcare complex in Gapyeong, Kyonggido. With the Gapyeong complex launch, KAIST will come to commercialize Dr. M system along with other Dr.M consortium members as a new growth engine to drive the smart health industry. Dr. M is a smart healthcare platform developed by the Health Science Research Institute at KAIST in 2014. Dr. M is capable of analyzing and predicting diseases, as well as prescribing, by incorporating ICT and medical technologies. Dr. M applies diverse technologies such as healthcare sensors, wearable devices, low-power communications technology, and cloud and big data collection platforms. Hancom Group, a leading computer software company in Korea, has participated in the project since 2015 for advancing the smart healthcare market by developing mobile healthcare software program. Hancom joined the Dr.M consortium launched last November. (President Kang (left) poses with Hancom Chairman Kim after signing.)
Professor Dongman Lee Wins the 2016 Korea Internet Award
Professor Dongman Lee of KAIST’s School of Computing received the 11th Korea Internet Award in the category of personal achievement on December 13 at the Creative Economy and Innovation Center in Gyeonggi province. Hosted by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning of Korea, the Internet Award recognizes leaders in the Internet industry and their contributions. Since 2010, Professor Lee has conducted research on the Internet of Things (IoT) platforms, resulting in the publication of five research papers in Science Citation Index (SCI) journals, ten papers in Korean journals, 30 best papers nominations at international conferences, and the registration of eleven patents. He has also worked on the creation of an IoT ecosystem through his research on object interworking platforms that can provide diverse user-customized services in the IoT environment. His research team built a test bed for applicable IoT platforms on the 8th floor of the IT Convergence Center on campus to implement experiments and collect various data, thereby creating a foundation to carry out research projects in this field. Professor Lee has helped the advancement of an Internet governance system in Korea by researching Internet governance policies, holding important posts in related academic societies including the Chairman of the Korea Internet Governance Alliance (KIGA) Council, and hosting major conferences such as the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF).
Unveiling the Distinctive Features of Industrial Microorganism
KAIST researchers have sequenced the whole genome of Clostridium tyrobutyricum, which has a higher tolerance to toxic chemicals, such as 1-butanol, compared to other clostridial bacterial strains. Clostridium tyrobutyricum, a Gram-positive, anaerobic spore-forming bacterium, is considered a promising industrial host strain for the production of various chemicals including butyric acid which has many applications in different industries such as a precursor to biofuels. Despite such potential, C. tyrobutyricum has received little attention, mainly due to a limited understanding of its genotypic and metabolic characteristics at the genome level. A Korean research team headed by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) deciphered the genome sequence of C. tyrobutyricum and its proteome profiles during the course of batch fermentation. As a result, the research team learned that the bacterium is not only capable of producing a large amount of butyric acid but also can tolerate toxic compounds such as 1-butanol. The research results were published in mBio on June 14, 2016. The team adopted a genoproteomic approach, combining genomics and proteomics, to investigate the metabolic features of C. tyrobutyricum. Unlike Clostridium acetobutylicum, the most widely used organism for 1-butanol production, C. tyrobutyricum has a novel butyrate-producing pathway and various mechanisms for energy conservation under anaerobic conditions. The expression of various metabolic genes, including those involved in butyrate formation, was analyzed using the “shotgun” proteome approach. To date, the bio-based production of 1-butanol, a next-generation biofuel, has relied on several clostridial hosts including C. acetobutylicum and C. beijerinckii. However, these organisms have a low tolerance against 1-butanol even though they are naturally capable of producing it. C. tyrobutyricum cannot produce 1-butanol itself, but has a higher 1-butanol-tolerance and rapid uptake of monosaccharides, compared to those two species. The team identified most of the genes involved in the central metabolism of C. tyrobutyricum from the whole-genome and shotgun proteome data, and this study will accelerate the bacterium’s engineering to produce useful chemicals including butyric acid and 1-butanol, replacing traditional bacterial hosts. Professor Lee said, “The unique metabolic features and energy conservation mechanisms of C. tyrobutyricum can be employed in the various microbial hosts we have previously developed to further improve their productivity and yield. Moreover, findings on C. tyrobutyricum revealed by this study will be the first step to directly engineer this bacterium.” Director Jin-Woo Kim at the Platform Technology Division of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning of Korea, who oversees the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Change, said, “Over the years, Professor Lee’s team has researched the development of a bio-refinery system to produce natural and non-natural chemicals with the systems metabolic engineering of microorganisms. They were able to design strategies for the development of diverse industrial microbial strains to produce useful chemicals from inedible biomass-based carbon dioxide fixation. We believe the efficient production of butyric acid using a metabolic engineering approach will play an important role in the establishment of a bioprocess for chemical production.” The title of the research paper is “Deciphering Clostridium tyrobutyricum Metabolism Based on the Who-Genome Sequence and Proteome Analyses.” (DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00743-16) The lead authors are Joungmin Lee, a post-doctoral fellow in the BioProcess Research Center at KAIST, currently working in CJ CheilJedang Research Institute; Yu-Sin Jang, a research fellow in the BioProcess Research Center at KAIST, currently working at Gyeongsang National University as an assistant professor; and Mee-Jung Han, an assistant professor in the Environmental Engineering and Energy Department at Dongyang University. Jin Young Kim, a senior researcher at the Korea Basic Science Institute, also participated in the research. This research was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Change’s research project entitled “Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries” from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2012M1A2A2026556). Schematic Diagram of C. tyrobutyricum’s Genome Sequence and Its Proteome Profiles The picture below shows the complete genome sequence, global protein expression profiles, and the genome-based metabolic characteristics during batch fermentation of C. tyrobutyricum.
Professors Jeon and Choi Receive the Young Scientist Award
Professors Seokwoo Jeon of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Jang Wook Choi of the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability (EEWS) at KAIST received the Young Scientist Award. The award ceremony took place at the Korea Press Center in Seoul. Presented by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning of Korea and the National Academy of Engineering of Korea, the Young Scientist Award is given to outstanding scientists under the age of 40 who have demonstrated excellence in their research in the field of natural science. Each year the award is given to three scientists in different areas. Professor Jeon was recognized for his achievement in creating a new property of materials. He studied synthesis and development of low-dimensional nanomaterials and developed a large area nanostructure. Professor Choi’s research area was to discover optimal materials for rechargeable batteries. By applying his research, he developed rechargeable batteries with high efficiency, making the wearable system more feasible.
Prof. Jae-Kyu Lee Campaigns on "Bright Internet" Worldwide
Professor Jae-Kyu Lee (pictured on the right) from the College of Business at KAIST is one step closer to fulfilling his dream of achieving the “Bright Internet,” a campaign that he first proposed as he became the president of the Association for Information Systems (AIS) in June 2015. On December 12, 2015, Professor Lee signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at a convention center in Fort Worth, Texas, between the AIS and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)—a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues related to information and communication technologies—on a collaborative research and development program to make the Internet safer for everyone. The MOU pursues building a trusted international information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure by proposing telecommunication policies, developing international standards, and organizing interdisciplinary conferences. The Bright Internet is an initiative to protect online users from cyber terrors, privacy breaches, and cyber-crimes. Further, it involves putting accountability to those who initiate or deliver cyber threats, thereby eliminating the possible source of Internet related crimes. Following the MOU agreement, Prof. Lee delivered a speech on his campaign at the 2015 International Conference on Information Systems and received positive responses from the audience. The Bright Internet campaign has been selected as visions of various ICT organizations worldwide including the Korea Society of Management Information System and the International Federation of Information Processing. KAIST and Tsinghua University in China adopted it as an academic topic for research and teaching. Prof. Lee claimed that the Internet should be used in a manner based on the values of trust, ethics, and decorum. He further noted that it is important to build Internet environments that not only protect individuals from cyber threats or attacks, but also hold those who commit online crimes accountable for their actions.
KAIST and Four Science and Technology Universities Host a Start-up Competition
KAIST and four other science and technology universities, such as Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), and Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), hosted a startup competition on November 27, 2015 at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. Approximately 150 participants including students from the five universities, "angel" investors, and entrepreneurs attended the competition. The competition was held to promote startups that are based on research achievements in science and technology and to foster entrepreneurs with great potential. Two hundred and sixty applicants from 81 teams competed this year. Only ten teams made it to the finals. KAIST students presented two business plans: an experience-centered education platform and mobile taxi-pooling service. Students from other universities presented a brain-stimulating simulation software (GIST), handy smart health trainer (GIST), real-time reporting system for luggage (DGIST), a flower delivery system (UNIST), surveillance and alarm system for stock-related events via machinery studies (UNIST), augmented emotion toys using augmented reality (POSTECH), and a nasal spray for fine dust prevention (POSTECH). KAIST also displayed an exhibition of “wearable haptic device for multimedia contents” and “next generation recommendation service platform based on one-on-one matching system with high expandability and improved user experience system.” The winning team received an award from the Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning of Korea, as well as an opportunity to participate in overseas startup programs over the course of ten days. Joongmyeon Bae, Director of the KAIST Industry and University Cooperation, who organized the contest, said, “The alumni of Stanford University (USA) has annually created over 5.4 million jobs through startup activities. Likewise, we hope that our event will contribute to job creation by fostering innovative entrepreneurs.”
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