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Effective Drug Delivery to Heart with Tannic Acid
(Professor Haeshin Lee from the Department of Chemistry) Typical methods of drug delivery to the heart require surgical procedures involving incisions in the chest wall and bones. To efficiently treat cardiovascular and related vascular diseases without surgery, a KAIST research team developed a heart-targeting drug delivery technology using tannin acid via intravenous systemic injection. This method can be applied to the development of a variety of new protein-based drugs. Cardiovascular-circulatory disease is currently the second leading cause of death in Korea. A typical example of this disease is myocardial infarction caused by poor oxygen and nutrient supply due to narrowed coronary arteries and poor blood flow to the heart. Although there have been numerous research projects to develop chemotherapeutic drugs and therapeutic proteins, clinics still rely on surgical procedures. Drug delivery can be an alternative, but it is quite challenging because ceaseless dynamic cycles of the heart and massive exchanges of blood mean administered therapeutics do not stay inside the heart very long. Professor Haeshin Lee from the Department of Chemistry and his team employed tannic acid (TA), which is known for giving bitter taste to wines. It is one of the most abundant polyphenols and can be easily found in plants, such as fruits, vegetables, cacao, and others. TA has also been used as a multifunctional coating molecule. Using these properties of TA, the team complexed protein and peptide therapeutics with tannic acid and succeeded in targeting protein and peptide therapeutics to the heart. TA, coated on the surface of a granulated protein complex, helps maintain cardiac function because it adheres to extracellular matrices, elastin, and collagens in heart tissues allowing the protein to stay attached to the heart tissue for a longer period. The team confirmed that these Tannic-acid-modified proteins stay in blood vessels five days longer than with protein-only injections. Additionally they found that TA-protein complexes do not show any cardiac toxicity and do not cause noticeable pathology. The team has been continuously developing biomaterials for medical applications by testing various polyphenolic materials that feature adhesive and coating properties, including tannic acid. They have injected a mixture of TA and fibroblast growth factors (FGF) into animal models with myocardial infarctions. After four weeks, they confirmed that the infarction was reduced and the left ventricular pressure and cardiac output were almost normalized. Professor Lee said, “Although there have been numerous drugs related to heart disease, so far there has not been efficient drug delivery to the heart so this technology will be able to reformulate existing drugs into new and more efficient drugs.” This research, jointly led by Dr. Ki-Suk Kim from the Predictive Model Research Center, was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering on April 30 ( http://www.nature.com/articles/s41551-018-0227-9 ). Figure 1. Schematic for the heart-targeting mechanism of TANNylated protein nanocomplexes: (1) size-dependent permeation, (2) phenolic (that is, TA), and (3) internalization by internalization by myoblasts Figure 2. Effect of TA based protein complexes on cardiac cell transport efficiency and viral gene expression efficiency and therapeutic function in animal models with myocardial infarction
Electron Heating in Weakly Ionized Collisional Plasmas
(from left: Professor Wonho Choe and Research Professor Sanghoo Park) A KAIST research team successfully identified the underlying principles behind electron heating, which is one of the most important phenomena in plasmas. As the electric heating determines wide range of physical and chemical properties of plasmas, this outcome will allow relevant industries to extend and effectively customize a range of plasma characteristics for their specific needs. Plasma, frequently called the fourth state of matter, can be mostly formed by artificially energizing gases in standard temperature (25°C) and pressure (1 atm) range. Among the many types of plasma, atmospheric-pressure plasmas have been gaining a great deal of attention due to their unique features and applicability in various scientific and industrial fields. Because plasma characteristics strongly depends on gas pressure in the sub-atmospheric to atmospheric pressure range, characterizing the plasma at different pressures is a prerequisite for understanding the fundamental principles of plasmas and for their industrial applications. In that sense, information on the spatio-temporal evolution in the electron density and temperature is very important because various physical and chemical reactions within a plasma arise from electrons. Hence, electron heating has been an interesting topic in the field of plasma. Because collisions between free electrons and neutral gases are frequent under atmospheric-pressure conditions, there are physical limits to measuring the electron density and temperature in plasmas using conventional diagnostic tools, thus the principles behind free electron heating could not be experimentally revealed. Moreover, lacking information on a key parameter of electron heating and its controlling methods is troublesome and limit improving the reactivity and applicability of such plasmas. To address these issues, Professor Wonho Choe and his team from the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering employed neutral bremsstrahlung-based electron diagnostics in order to accurately examine the electron density and temperature in target plasmas. In addition, a novel imaging diagnostics for two dimensional distribution of electron information was developed. Using the diagnostic technique they developed, the team measured the nanosecond-resolved electron temperature in weakly ionized collisional plasmas, and they succeeded in revealing the spatiotemporal distribution and the fundamental principle involved in the electron heating process. The team successfully revealed the fundamental principle of the electron heating process under atmospheric to sub-atmospheric pressure (0.25-1atm) conditions through conducting the experiment on the spatiotemporal evolution of electron temperature. Their findings of the underlying research data on free electrons in weakly ionized collisional plasmas will contribute to enhancing the field of plasma science and their commercial applications. Professor Choe said, “The results of this study provide a clear picture of electron heating in weakly ionized plasmas under conditions where collisions between free electrons and neutral particles are frequent. We hope this study will be informative and helpful in utilizing and commercializing atmospheric-pressure plasma sources in the near future.” Articles related to this research, led by Research Professor Sanghoo Park, were published in Scientific Reports on May 14 and July 5. Figure 1. Nanosecond-resolved visualization of the electron heating structure. Spatiotemporal evolution of 514.5-nm continuum radiation,Te, Ar I emission Figure 2. Nanosecond-resolved visualization of electron heating. Spatiotemporal evolution of neutral bremsstrahlung at 514.5 nm
Metabolic Engineering of E. coli for the Secretory Production of Free Haem
Researchers of KAIST have defined a novel strategy for the secretory production of free haem using engineered Escherichia coli (E. coli) strains. They utilized the C5 pathway, the optimized downstream pathways, and the haem exporter to construct a recombinant micro-organism producing extracellular haem using fed-batch fermentation. This is the first report to extracellularly produce haem using engineered E. coli. This strategy will expedite the efficient production of free haem to serve as a bioavailable iron-supplying agent and an important prosthetic group of multiple hemoproteins for medical uses. This study, led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was published in Nature Catalysis on Aug. 28. Haem, an organometallic compound complexed with a ferrous ion, is an essential molecule delivering oxygen in the blood of many animals. It is also a key component of electron transport chains responsible for the respiration of aerobic organisms including diverse bacteria. It is now being widely applied as a bioavailable iron-supplying agent in the healthcare and dietary supplement industries. The demand for haem and the need for the efficient production of this compound continue to grow. Many previous researchers have attempted to produce free haem using engineered E. coli. However, none of the studies was successful in producing free haem extracellularly, requiring an additional step to extract the accumulated haem from cells for subsequent uses. The secretion of haem in the form of haem peptides or proteins also requires an extraction step to isolate the free haem from the secreted products. Thus, the secretory production of free haem is an important task for the economical production of haem that is suitable for human consumption. Although some researchers could produce intracellular haem using recombinant E. coli strains, its final titer was extremely low, resulting from the use of sub-optimal metabolic pathways. Furthermore, the addition of the precursors L-glycine and succinate was deemed undesirable for massive industrial production. Thus, it is necessary to construct an optimized haem biosynthetic pathway to enable the efficient production of haem and examine the consequent secretion of free haem. To address this issue, the KAIST team used multiple strategies to produce extracellular free haem by enhancing its biosynthesis in E. coli. First, the capacities of the C4 and C5 pathways to produce aminolevulinate (ALA) without feeding precursors were examined. After confirming the superior performance of the C5 pathway over the C4 pathway, the metabolic genes of the C5 pathway and downstream pathways for haem biosynthesis were overexpressed. Then, the metabolic pathways were optimized by adjusting the expression levels of the relevant genes and disrupting the putative haem degradation enzyme encoded by the yfeX gene. Consequently, the resulting engineered strain secreted a significant amount of haem to the medium. Subsequent optimization of the cultivation conditions and the supplementation of nitrogen sources further increased both the titer of the total free haem and the amount of free haem secreted to the medium. Finally, the overexpression of the ccmABC genes encoding the haem exporter further enhanced the production and secretion of haem, producing the highest titer of haem both intracellularly and extracellularly from glucose. Professor Lee said, “The eco-friendly and sustainable chemical industry is a key global agenda every nation faces. We are conducting research to bio-synthesize high concentrations, high yields, and high productivity in natural products. This novel technology will serve as an opportunity to advance the biochemical industry moving forward.” This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries (NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557) from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea. Further Contact: Dr. Sang Yup Lee, Distinguished Professor, KAIST, Daejeon, Korea ( email@example.com+82-42-350-3930).
A Breakthrough for Understanding Glioblastoma: Origin Cells for Deadly Brain Tumors Identified
Figure 1. The pattern of GBM genesis is similar to that of firework. The bottom canon represents the first occurrence of the SVZ mutated cell. A new study by KAIST researchers identified where the mutation causing glioblastoma starts. According to the study, neural stem cells away from the tumor mass are the cells of origin that contain mutation drivers for glioblastoma, one of the most aggressive brain tumor. This breakthrough research, reported in Nature on August 1, gives insights for understanding why glioblastomas almost always grow back, even after surgery, and suggests novel ways to treat glioblastoma, which was previously thought to be incurable. Like most cancers, glioblastoma is treated with surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, then radiation and chemotherapy. However, it almost always returns in less than a year and its median survival time is only 15 months. Precision therapeutic approaches targeting tumors themselves didn’t lead to any breakthroughs. Professor Jeong Ho Lee’s team at the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering described direct genetic evidence through the deep sequencing of all triple-matched samples: normal SVZ tissue away from the tumor mass, tumor tissue, and normal cortical tissue. The research team studied 28 patients with glioblastomas and other types of brain tumors who underwent supra-total resection or other surgical resections of tumors, providing access to normal subventricular zone (SVZ) tissue (where neural stem cells are located) away from the tumor mass. The researchers used various deep and single cell sequencing technologies to conduct comparative DNA analysis on the samples from the patient’s SVZ tissue and tumors. They reported that normal SVZ tissue away from the tumor in 56.3% of patients with glioblastoma already contained low-level glioblastoma driver mutations that were observed at high levels in their matching tumors. Furthermore, the research team generated a genome edited mouse carrying glioblastoma mutations in the SVZ and showed that neural stem cells with mutations migrate from the SVZ lead to the development of glioblastomas in distant brain regions. (See the image below) Professor Lee conducted this study in collaboration with Professor Seok-Gu Kang of the Brain Tumor Center at Severance Hospital of Yonsei University. He said, “It’s easier to understand when we compare it to fireworks. Every flare flying around sky can be likened to cancer cells even though the fireworks are triggered on the ground. We found the trigger.” The identification of this mutation pathway of glioblastomas will lead to a new paradigm for therapeutic strategies. He added, “Now, we can focus on interrupting the recurrence and evolution of glioblastomas.” Professor Lee has investigated mutations arising in the brain for a decade. He is developing innovative diagnostics and therapeutics for untreatable brain disorders including intractable epilepsy and glioblastoma at a tech-startup, SoVarGen. “All technologies we used during the research were transferred to the company. This research gave us very good momentum to reach the next phase of our startup,” he remarked. Figure 2. Genetic analysis of tumor-free SVZ tissue and matching tumor tissue from GBM patients. Figure 3. Glioma progression in genome edited mice carrying GBM mutations in the SVZ
Visualizing Chemical Reaction on Bimetal Surfaces
Catalysts are the result of many chemists searching to unravel the beauty of molecules and the mystery of chemical reactions. Professor Jeong Young Park from the Department of Chemistry, whose research focuses on catalytic chemical reactions, is no exception. His research team recently made breakthroughs in addressing long-standing questions for understanding reaction mechanisms on bimetal catalysts. During the studies reported in Science Advances, following a publication in Nature Communications this month, Professor Park’s research team identified that the formation of metal–oxide interfaces is the key factor responsible for the synergistic catalytic effect in bimetal catalysts. The team confirmed this fundamental reaction mechanism through in situ imaging of reaction conditions. This is the first visualization of bimetal surfaces under reaction conditions, signifying the role of metal–oxide interfaces in heterogeneous catalysis. Bimetallic materials have outstanding catalytic performance, which opens a new pathway for controlling electronic structures and binding energy in catalysts. Despite considerable research on various catalytic reaction efficiencies, there are yet unanswered questions on the underlying principles behind the improved performance. Even more, it was very hard to figure out what led to the efficiency because the structure, chemical composition, and oxidation state of bimetallic materials change according to reaction conditions. Recently, some research groups suggested that oxide–metal interfacial sites formed by the surface segregation of bimetallic nanoparticles might be responsible for the increased catalytic performance. However, they failed to present any definitive evidence illustrating the physical nature or the fundamental role of the oxide–metal interfaces leading to the improved performance. To specifically address this challenge, the research team carried out in situ observations of structural modulation on platinum–nickel bimetal catalysts under carbon monoxide oxidation conditions with ambient pressure scanning tunneling microscopy and ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The team observed that platinum–nickel bimetal catalysts exhibited a variety of different structures depending on the gas conditions. Under ultrahigh vacuum conditions, the surface exhibited a platinum skin layer on the platinum–nickel alloyed surface, selective nickel segregation followed by the formation of nickel oxide clusters using oxygen gas, and finally the coexistence of nickel oxide clusters on the platinum skin during carbon monoxide oxidation. The research team found that the formation of interfacial platinum–nickel oxide nanostructures is responsible for a highly efficient step in the carbon monoxide oxidation reaction. These findings illustrate that the enhancement of the catalytic activity on the bimetallic catalyst surface originates from the thermodynamically efficient reaction pathways at the metal–metal oxide interface, which demonstrates a straightforward process for the strong metal–support interaction effect. The formation of these interfacial metal–metal oxide nanostructures increases catalytic activity while providing a thermodynamically efficient reaction pathway by lowering the heat of the reactions on the surface. [J. Kim et al. Adsorbate-driven reactive interfacial Pt-NiO1-x nanostructure formation on the Pt3Ni(111) alloy surface, Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat3151 ] Professor Park said that one way to monitor catalysts is to detect hot electrons associated with energy dissipation and conversion processes during surface reactions. His team led the real-time detection of hot electrons generated on bimetallic PtCo nanoparticles during exothermic hydrogen oxidation. The team successfully clarified the origin of the synergistic catalytic activity of PtCo nanoparticles with corresponding chemicurrent values. By estimating the chemicurrent yield, the research team conclude that the catalytic properties of the bimetallic nanoparticles are strongly governed by the oxide–metal interface, which facilitates hot electron transfer. [H. Lee et al. Boosting hot electron flux and catalytic activity at metal–oxide interfaces of PtCo bimetallic nanoparticles, Nature Comm, 9, 2235 (2018)]. Professor Park explained, “We feel that the precise measurement of hot electrons on catalysts gives insight into the mechanism for heterogeneous catalysis, which can help with the smart design of highly reactive materials. The control of catalytic activity via electronic engineering of catalysts is a promising prospect that may open the door to the new field of combining catalysis with electronics, called “catalytronics.” He added that the study also establishes a strategy for improving catalytic activity for catalytic reactions in industrial chemical reactors. Professors Park and Yousung Jung from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Graduate School of EEWS conducted this research in collaboration with Professor Bongjin Mun from the Department of Physics at GIST. Figure 1. Evolution of surface structures of PtNi bimetal surfaces under various ambient conditions. Figure 2. Formation of Pt-CoO interface leads to the catalytic enhancement of PtCo bimetal catalysts.
Fast-Charging Lithium-Oxygen Batteries
(Professor Hye Ryung Byon) KAIST researchers have paved the way for fast-charging lithium-oxygen batteries. Professor Hye Ryung Byon from the Department of Chemistry and Professor Yousung Jung from the Graduate School of EEWS led a joint research team to develop lithium-oxygen batteries exhibiting 80% round-trip efficiency even at high charging rates, solving the problem of existing lithium-oxygen batteries which generally showed drastically lower efficiencies when the charge current rate was increased. This study exploits the size and shape lithium peroxide, a discharge product, which is known to cause the very problems mentioned above. In doing so, the researchers have lowered the overpotential, which is the difference between the thermodynamic reversible potential and the measured potential, and simultaneously improved battery efficiency. Of particular interest is the fact that these high-performance lithium-oxygen batteries can be realized without costly catalysts. One remarkable property of lithium-oxygen batteries is that they can accommodate three to five times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries commonly used today. Therefore, lithium-oxygen batteries would render longer driving distance to electric vehicles or drones, which operate on the continued use of electrical power. However, their weakness lies in that, during charge, the lithium peroxide remains undecomposed at low overpotential, resulting in eventually compromising the battery’s overall performance. This is due to the poor ionic and electrical conductivity of lithium peroxide. To tackle this issue, the researchers could form one-dimensional amorphous lithium peroxide nanostructures through the use of a mesoporous carbon electrode, CMK-3. When compared against non-mesoporous electrodes, CMK-3 showed exceptionally lower overpotential, thereby enhancing the round-trip efficiency of lithium-oxygen batteries. The amorphous lithium peroxide produced along the electrode has a small volume and a large surface area contacting electrolyte solution, which is presumably endowed with high conductivity to speed up the charging of the lithium-oxygen batteries. This research underpins the feasibility of overcoming the fundamental limitations of lithium-oxygen batteries even without the addition of expensive catalytic materials, but rather by the re-configuration of the size and shape of the lithium peroxide. The findings of this research were published in Nature Communications on February 14. Figure 1. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images Figure 2. Galvanostatic rate capability Figure 3. Density functional calculation and Bader charge analysis
New Material for Generating Energy-Efficient Spin Currents
(Professor Byong-Guk Park (left) and Professor Kab-Jin Kim) Magnetic random access memory (MRAM) is emerging as next-generation memory. It allows information to be kept even without an external power supply and its unique blend of high density and high speed operation is driving global semiconductor manufacturers to develop new versions continuously. A KAIST team, led by Professor Byong-Guk Park in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor Kab-Jin Kim in the Department of Physics, recently has developed a new material which enables the efficient generation of a spin current, the core part of operating MRAM. This new material consisting of ferromagnet-transition metal bilayers can randomly control the direction of the generated spin current unlike the existing ones. They also described a mechanism for spin-current generation at the interface between the bottom ferromagnetic layer and the non-magnetic spacer layer, which gives torques on the top magnetic layer that are consistent with the measured magnetization dependence. When applying this to spin-orbit torque magnetic memory, it shows the increased efficiency of spin torque and generation of the spin current without an external magnetic field. High-speed operation, the distinct feature of spin-orbit torque-based MRAM that carries its non-volatility, can significantly reduce the standby power better than SRAM. This new material will expect to speed up the commercialization of MRAM. The research team said that this magnetic memory will further be applied to mobile, wearable, and IoT devices. This study, conducted in collaboration with Professor Kyung-Jin Lee from Korea University and Dr. Mark Stiles from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US, was featured in Nature Materials in March. The research was funded by the Creative Materials Discovery Program of the Ministry of Science and ICT. (Figure: Ferromagnet-transition metal bilayers which can randomly control the direction of the generated spin current)
Undergrad's Paper Chosen as the Cover Article in Soft Matter
(from left: Research Professor KyuHan Kim and Undergrad Student Subeen Kim) A KAIST undergraduate student, Subeen Kim, had his paper chosen as the cover article in an international journal during his senior year. There have been an increasing number of undergraduate students who were published as the first author because the KAIST Undergraduate Research Participation program allows more active research participation by undergraduate students. Through URP, Kim successfully published his paper in the internationally-renowned journal, Soft Matter, which is published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and it was chosen as the cover article of that journal in February 2018. This publication means a lot to him because he designed the cover image himself, based on his imagination and observations. His research is about controllable one-step double emulsion formation. Double emulsion is a system in which dispersed droplets contain additional immiscible liquid droplets. Having great retention ability, double emulsion has been used in various applications in the food industry, in cosmetics, and for drug delivery. Nevertheless, two-step emulsification is a conventional approach to produce double emulsions that typically leads to partial destabilization of the emulsion formed during the initial stage. Hence, it does not ensure the stability of a double emulsion. On the other hand, a microfluidic approach with various flow-focusing techniques has been developed, but it has low production efficiency and thus limited industrial applications. Kim’s results came from the process of phase inversion to solve this problem. He identified the instant formation of double emulsions during the process of phase inversion. Based on this finding, he proposed criteria to achieve high stability of double emulsion. Through constant research, he developed a quite general method using a combination of an oil soluble poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA) and hydrophobic silica nanoparticle (HDK H18). This new method enables one-step and stable production of double emersions in a stable manner. It also allows control of the number and the volume of inner oil droplets inside the outer water droplets by adjusting PMMA and HDK H18. Kim enrolled at KAIST as a KAIST Presidential Fellowship and Presidential Science Scholarship in 2014. While studying both chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry he has been developing his hypothesis and conducting research. He was able to begin conducting research because he has taken part in URP projects twice. In his sophomore year, he studied the formation of high internal phase double emulsions. After one year, he conducted research to produce superabsorbent resins, which are the base material for diapers, by using colloid particles. Using partial research outcomes, he published his paper in Nature Communications as a second author. Kim said, “Double majoring the chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry has helped me producing this outcome. I hope that this research contributes to commercializing double emulsions. I will continue to identify accurate principles to produce chemicals that can be controlled exquisitely.” Figure 1. The cover article of Soft Matter
Animal Cyborg: Behavioral Control by 'Toy' Craving Circuit
Children love to get toys from parents for their birthday present. This craving toward items also involves object hoarding disorders and shopping addiction. However, the biological meaning of why the brain pursues objects or items has remained unknown. Part of the answer may lie with a neural circuit in the hypothalamus associated with “object craving,” says neuroscientist Daesoo Kim from the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST. His research team found that some neurons in the hypothalamus are activated during playing with toys in mice. Thanks to optogenetics, they proved that these neurons in the hypothalamus actually governs obsessive behavior toward non-food objects in mice. “When we stimulate a neuron in the hypothalamus of mice, they anxiously chased target objects. We found evidence that the neural circuits in the medial preoptic area (MPA) modulate “object craving,” the appetite for possessing objects” said Professor Kim. Researchers also proved that the MPA circuit facilitate hunting behavior in response to crickets, a natural prey to mice, showing the role of this circuit for catching prey. Further, the MPA nerves send excitatory signals to the periaqueductal gray (PAG), located around the cerebral aqueduct, to create such behavior. The team named this circuit the ‘MPA-PAG’ circuit. The team showed that they could control mammalian behavior for the first time with this scheme of MPA-Induced Drive Assisted Steering (MIDAS), in which a mouse chase the target objects in the front of head during stimulation of the MPA-PAG circuit. MIDAS allows mice to overcome obstacles to move in a desired path using optogenetics. (Professor Daesoo Kim) Professor Kim, who teamed up with Professor Phill Seung Lee in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, explained the significance of the research, “This study provides evidence to treat brain disorders such as compulsive hoarding and kleptomania. It also contributes to the development of technology to control the behavior of animals and humans using strong innate motivation, and thus could impact neuro-economics, defense, and disaster relief.” He said the team would like to complete the neural circuit map governing behaviors of possession and hunting in the near future by exploring correlations with other neural behaviors controlling possessing and hunting activities. This research was funded by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation and published in Nature Neuroscience in March 2018. (Figure 1: Schematics showing possessive behavior induced by the MPA neural circuit) (Figure 2: Schematics of the MIDAS system that controls mammals behavior using the desire to possess. A MIDAS mouse is following the bait object controlled wirelessly.)
KAIST Develops Sodium Ion Batteries using Copper Sulfide
A KAIST research team recently developed sodium ion batteries using copper sulfide anode. This finding will contribute to advancing the commercialization of sodium ion batteries (SIBs) and reducing the production cost of any electronic products with batteries. Professor Jong Min Yuk and Emeritus Professor Jeong Yong Lee from Department of Materials Science and Engineering succeeded in developing a new anode material suitable for use in a SIB. Compared to the existing anode materials, the copper sulfide anode was measured to exhibit 1.5 times better cyclability with projected 40% reduction in cost. Batteries used in various applications including mobile phones are lithium ion batteries, mostly referred as Li-ion batteries or LIBs. Though they are popularly used until now, large-scale energy storage systems require much inexpensive and abundant materials. Hence, a SIB has attracted enormous attention for their advantage over a lithium counterpart. However, one main obstacle to commercialization of SIB is the lack of suitable anodes that exhibit high capacity and the cycling stability of the battery. Hence, the research team recognized this need for a good anode material that could offer high electrical conductivity and theoretical capacity. The material was found to be copper sulfide, preferably in nanoplates, which “prefers to make an alloy with sodium and is thus promising for high capacity and long-term cyclability.” Further analysis presented in the study reveals that copper sulfide undergoes crystallographic tuning to make a room for sodium insertion. Results indicate that the sodium ion-insertion capacity of copper sulfide is as much as 1.5 times that of lithium ions for graphite. Furthermore, a battery with this new anode material retains 90% of its original capacity for 250 charge-discharge cycles. With the natural abundance of sodium in seawater, this development may contribute to reduction in battery costs, which can be translated into up to 30% cut in the price of various consumer electronics. Professor Lee expressed his hope for “the production of next-generation, high-performance sodium ion batteries”. Professor Yuk said, “These days, people are showing a great deal of interest in products related to renewable energy due to recent micro-dust issues ongoing in Korea. This study may help Korea get a head-start on renewable energy products”. This research, led by PhD candidate Jae Yeol Park and Dr. Sung Joo Kim, was published online in Nature Communications on March 2. Figure 1. The sodiation process of copper sulfide
Producing 50x More Stable Adsorbent
A KAIST research team developed a technology to increase the stability of amine-containing adsorbents by fifty times, moving one step further toward commercializing stable adsorbents that last longer. Professor Minkee Choi from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and his team succeeded in developing amine-containing adsorbents that show high oxidative stability. The capture of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is an active ongoing research field, and some of the latest advancements point to amine-containing adsorbents as an efficient and environment-friendly way to capture carbon dioxide. However, existing amine-containing adsorbents are known to be unstable under oxidation, which chemically breaks down the adsorbent, thereby making it difficult to rely on amine-containing adsorbents for repeated and continued use. The researchers have discovered that the miniscule amount of iron and copper present in the amine accelerate the oxidative breakdown of the amine-containing adsorbent. Upon this discovery, they proposed the use of a chelator substance, which essentially suppresses the activation of the impurities. The team demonstrates that the proposed method renders the adsorbent up to 50 times slower in its deactivation rate due to oxidation, compared to conventional polyethyleneimine (PEI) / silica adsorbents. Figure 1 illustrates the superior performance of this oxidation-stable amine-containing adsorbent (shown in black squares), whose carbon dioxide-capturing capacity deteriorates by only a small amount (~8%). Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide-capturing capacity of the PEI/silica adsorbent (shown in red diamonds) degrades dramatically after being exposed to oxidative aging for 30 days. This stability under oxidation is expected to have brought amine-containing adsorbents one step closer to commercialization. As such, first author Woosung Choi describes the significance of this study as “having brought solid carbon dioxide adsorbents to commercializable standards”. In fact, Professor Choi explains that commercialization steps for his team’s carbon dioxide adsorbents are already underway. He further set forth his aim to “develop the world’s best carbon dioxide capture adsorbent”. This research, led by the PhD candidate Woosung Choi, was published online in Nature Communications on February 20. Figure 1. Carbon dioxide working capacity against oxidative aging time. Performance of the proposed method (black) degrades much more slowly (~50x) than that of existing methods. The novel adsorbent is thus shown to be more robust to oxidation.
The 8th KINC Fusion Research Awardees
The KAIST Institute for NanoCentury held the 8th KINC Fusion Research Award in order to encourage professors’ convergence studies and instill students’ willingness to research. The award ceremony took place in the KI Building at KAIST on March 13. The KINC Fusion Research Award selects the most outstanding convergence studies among research undertaken last year, and awards researchers who participated in that research. The 8th KINC Fusion Research Award went to Professor Yoon Sung Nam from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor Inkyu Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Their research reported the spontaneous self-biomineralization of palladium (Pd) ions on a filamentous virus to form ligand-free Pd nanowires without reducing reagents or using additional surface stabilizers (Title: Virus-Templated Self-Mineralization of Ligand-Free Colloidal Palladium Nanostructures for High Surface Activity and Stability, Advanced Functional Materials (2017)). Professor Hee-Tae Jung, the Director of KAIST Institute for the NanoCentury and the host of the KINC Fusion Research Award said, “Convergence will be the crucial keyword that will lead to revolutionary change. Hence, the importance of convergence study should be improved. We will put every effort into creating a research environment for increasing convergence study. The KAIST Institute for the NanoCentury was established in June 2006 under the KAIST Institute with a mission of creating convergence study by tearing down boarders among departments and carrying out interdisciplinary joint research. Currently, approximately 90 professors from 14 departments participate the institute. It aims to become a hub of university institutes for nano-fusion research.
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