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Photoacoustic Imaging and Photothermal Cancer Therapy Using BR Nanoparticles
(Professor Sangyong Jon and PhD Candidate Dong Yun Lee) Sangyong Jon, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST, and his team developed combined photoacoustic imaging and photothermal therapy for cancer by using Bilirubin (BR) nanoparticles. The research team applied the properties of a bile pigment called BR, which exerts potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, to this research. The team expects this research, which shows high biocompatibility as well as outstanding photoacoustic imaging and photothermal therapy, to be an appropriate system in the field of treatment for cancer. In the past, the research team developed a PEGylated bilirubin-based nanoparticle system by combining water-insoluble BR with water-soluble Polyethylene Glycol (PEG). This technology facilitated BR exerting antioxidants yet prevented them from being accumulated in the body. Its efficiency and safety was identified in an animal disease model, for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, islet cell transportation, and asthma. Differing from previous research methods, this research applied the different physicochemical properties of BR to cancer treatment. When the causative agent of jaundice, yellow BR, is exposed to a certain wavelength of blue light, the agent becomes a photonic nanomaterial as it responses to the light. This light-responsive nanomaterial can be used to cure jaundice because it allows for active excretion in infants. Secondly, the team identified that BR is a major component of black pigment gallstones which can be often found in gall bladders or bile ducts under certain pathological conditions. The findings show that BR forms black pigment gallstones without the role of an intermediate or cation, such as calcium and copper. The research team combined cisplatin, a platinum metal-based anticancer drug, with BR so that BR nanoparticles changed the solution color from yellow to purple. The team also examined the possibility of cisplatin-chelated BR nanoparticles as a probe for photoacoustic images. They found that considerable photoacoustic activity was shown when it was exposed to near infrared light. In fact, the photoacoustic signal was increased significantly in tumors of animals with colorectal cancer when the nanoparticles were administered to it intravenously. The team expects a more accurate diagnosis of tumors through this technology. Moreover, the team assessed the photothermal effects of cisplatin-chelated BR nanoparticles. The research showed that the temperature of tumors increased by 25 degrees Celsius within five minutes when they were exposed to near infrared light, due to the photothermal effect. After two weeks, their size was reduced compared to that of other groups, and sometimes the tumors were even necrotized. Professor Jon said, “Existing substances have a low biocompatibility and limitation for clinical therapy because they are artificially oriented; therefore, they might have toxicity. I am hoping that these cisplatin-chelated BR-based nanoparticles will provide a new platform for preclinical, translational research and clinical adaptation of the photoacoustic imaging and photothermal therapy.” The paper (Dong Yun Lee as a first author) was published online in the renowned journal in the field of applied chemistry, Angewandte Chemi International Edition, on September 4. This research was sponsored by the National Research Foundation of Korea. (Schematic diagram of the research) (From left: Bilirubin nanoparticles, cisplatin-chelated Bilirubin nanoparticles)
Semiconductor Patterning of Seven Nanometers Technology Using a Camera Flash
A research team led by Professor Sang Ouk Kim in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST has developed semiconductor manufacturing technology using a camera flash. This technology can manufacture ultra-fine patterns over a large area by irradiating a single flash with a seven-nanometer patterning technique for semiconductors. It can facilitate the manufacturing of highly efficient, integrated semiconductor devices in the future. Technology for the Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoTs), and big data, which are the major keys for the fourth Industrial Revolution, require high-capacity, high-performance semiconductor devices. It is necessary to develop lithography technology to produce such next-generation, highly integrated semiconductor devices. Although related industries have been using conventional photolithography for small patterns, this technique has limitations for forming a pattern of sub-10 nm patterns. Molecular assembly patterning technology using polymers has been in the spotlight as the next generation technology to replace photolithography because it is inexpensive to produce and can easily form sub-10 nm patterns. However, since it generally takes a long time for heat treatment at high-temperature or toxic solvent vapor treatment, mass production is difficult and thus its commercialization has been limited. The research team introduced a camera flash that instantly emits strong light to solve the issues of polymer molecular assembly patterning. Using a flash can possibly achieve a semiconductor patterning of seven nanometers within 15 milliseconds (1 millisecond = 1/1,000 second), which can generate a temperature of several hundred degrees Celsius in several tens of milliseconds. The team has demonstrated that applying this technology to polymer molecular assembly allows a single flash of light to form molecular assembly patterns. The team also identified its compatibility with polymer flexible substrates, which are impossible to process at high temperatures. Through these findings, the technology can be applied to the fabrication of next-generation, flexible semiconductors. The researchers said the camera flash photo-thermal process will be introduced into molecular assembly technology and this highly-efficiency technology can accelerate the realization of molecular assembly semiconductor technology. Professor Kim, who led the research, said, “Despite its potential, molecular assembly semiconductor technology has remained a big challenge in improving process efficiency.” “This technology will be a breakthrough for the practical use of molecular assembly-based semiconductors.” The paper was published in the international journal, Advanced Materials on August 21 with first authors, researcher Hyeong Min Jin and PhD candidate Dae Yong Park. The research, sponsored by the Ministry of Science and ICT, was co-led Professor by Keon Jae Lee in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST, and Professor Kwang Ho Kim in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Pusan National University. (1. Formation of semiconductor patterns using a camera flash) (Schematic diagram of molecular assembly pattern using a camera flash) (Self-assembled patterns)
Discovery of an Optimal Drug Combination: Overcoming Resistance to Targeted Drugs for Liver Cancer
A KAIST research team presented a novel method for improving medication treatment for liver cancer using Systems Biology, combining research from information technology and the life sciences. Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho in the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering at KAIST conducted the research in collaboration with Professor Jung-Hwan Yoon in the Department of Internal Medicine at Seoul National University Hospital. This research was published in Hepatology in September 2017 (available online from August 24, 2017). Liver cancer is the fifth and seventh most common cancer found in men and women throughout the world, which places it second in the cause of cancer deaths. In particular, Korea has 28.4 deaths from liver cancer per 100,000 persons, the highest death rate among OECD countries and twice that of Japan. Each year in Korea, 16,000 people get liver cancer on average, yet the five-year survival rate stands below 12%. According to the National Cancer Information Center, lung cancer (17,399) took the highest portion of cancer-related deaths, followed by liver cancer (11,311) based on last year data. Liver cancer is known to carry the highest social cost in comparison to other cancers and it causes the highest fatality in earlier age groups (40s-50s). In that sense, it is necessary to develop a new treatment that mitigates side effects yet elevates the survival rate. There are ways in which liver cancer can be cured, such as surgery, embolization, and medication treatments; however, the options become limited for curing progressive cancer, a stage in which surgical methods cannot be executed. Among anticancer medications, Sorafenib, a drug known for enhancing the survival rate of cancer patients, is a unique drug allowed for use as a targeted anticancer medication for progressive liver cancer patients. Its sales reached more than ten billion KRW annually in Korea, but its efficacy works on only about 20% of the treated patients. Also, acquired resistance to Sorafenib is emerging. Additionally, the action mechanism and resistance mechanism of Sorafenib is only vaguely identified.Although Sorafenib only extends the survival rate of terminal cancer patients less than three months on average, it is widely being used because drugs developed by global pharmaceutical companies failed to outperform its effectiveness. Professor Cho’s research team analyzed the expression changes of genes in cell lines in response to Sorafenib in order to identify the effect and the resistance mechanism of Sorafenib. As a result, the team discovered the resistance mechanism of Sorafenib using Systems Biology analysis. By combining computer simulations and biological experiments, it was revealed that protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) plays a crucial role in the resistance mechanism of Sorafenib and that its efficacy can be improved significantly by blocking PDI. The research team used mice in the experiment and discovered the synergic effect of PDI inhibition with Sorafenib for reducing liver cancer cells, known as hepatocellular carcinoma. Also, more PDIs are shown in tissue from patients who possess a resistance to Sorafenib. From these findings, the team could identify the possibility of its clinical applications. The team also confirmed these findings from clinical data through a retrospective cohort study. “Molecules that play an important role in cell lines are mostly put under complex regulation. For this reason, the existing biological research has a fundamental limitations for discovering its underlying principles,” Professor Cho said. “This research is a representative case of overcoming this limitation of traditional life science research by using a Systems Biology approach, combining IT and life science. It suggests the possibility of developing a new method that overcomes drug resistance with a network analysis of the targeted drug action mechanism of cancer.” The research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) and funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT. (Figure 1. Simulation results from cellular experiments using hepatocellular carcinoma) (Figure 2. Network analysis and computer simulation by using the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress network) (Figure 3. ER stress network model)
Improving Silver Nanowires for FTCEs with Flash Light Interactions
Flexible transparent conducting electrodes (FTCEs) are an essential element of flexible optoelectronics for next-generation wearable displays, augmented reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoTs). Silver nanowires (Ag NWs) have received a great deal of attention as future FTCEs due to their great flexibility, material stability, and large-scale productivity. Despite these advantages, Ag NWs have drawbacks such as high wire-to-wire contact resistance and poor adhesion to substrates, resulting in severe power consumption and the delamination of FTCEs. A research team led by Professor Keon Jae Lee of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at KAIST and Dr. Hong-Jin Park from BSP Inc., has developed high-performance Ag NWs (sheet resistance ~ 5 Ω/sq, transmittance 90 % at λ = 550 nm) with strong adhesion on plastic (interfacial energy of 30.7 J∙m-2) using flash light-material interactions. The broad ultraviolet (UV) spectrum of a flash light enables the localized heating at the junctions of nanowires (NWs), which results in the fast and complete welding of Ag NWs. Consequently, the Ag NWs demonstrate six times higher conductivity than that of the pristine NWs. In addition, the near-infrared (NIR) of the flash lamp melted the interface between the Ag NWs and a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrate, dramatically enhancing the adhesion force of the Ag NWs to the PET by 310 %. Professor Lee said, “Light interaction with nanomaterials is an important field for future flexible electronics since it can overcome thermal limit of plastics, and we are currently expanding our research into light-inorganic interactions.” Meanwhile, BSP Inc., a laser manufacturing company and a collaborator of this work, has launched new flash lamp equipment for flexible applications based on the Professor Lee’s research. The results of this work entitled “Flash-Induced Self-Limited Plasmonic Welding of Ag NW Network for Transparent Flexible Energy Harvester (DOI: 10.1002/adma.201603473)” were published in the February 2, 2017 issue of Advanced Materials as the cover article. Professor Lee also contributed an invited review in the same journal of the April 3, 2017 online issue, “Laser-Material Interactions for Flexible Applications (DOI:10.1002/adma.201606586),” overviewing the recent advances in light interactions with flexible nanomaterials. References  Advanced Materials, February 2, 2017, Flash-Induced Self-Limited Plasmonic Welding of Ag NW network for Transparent Flexible Energy Harvester http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201603473/epdf  Advanced Materials, April 3, 2017, Laser-Material Interactions for Flexible Applications http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201606586/abstract For further inquiries on research: email@example.com (Keon Jae Lee), firstname.lastname@example.org (Hong-Jin Park) Picture 1: Artistic Rendtition of Light Interaction with Nanomaterials (This image shows flash-induced plasmonic interactions with nanowires to improve silver nanowires (Ag NWs).) Picture 2: Ag NW/PET Film (This picture shows the Ag NWs on a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film after the flash-induced plasmonic thermal process.)
Highly-Efficient Photoelectrochemical CO2 Reduction
Direct CO2 conversion has continuously attracted a great deal of attention as a technology to produce fuels and chemical building blocks from renewable energy resources. Specifically, substances such as carbon feedstocks and fuels can be produced by utilizing sunlight, water, and CO2 as semiconductors and a water interface through photoelectrochemical CO2 reduction. A KAIST research team demonstrated a novel photoelectrode structure for highly-selective and efficient photoelectrochemical CO2 reduction reactions. The research team led by Professor Jihun Oh of the Graduate School of EEWS (Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability) presented a Si photoelectrode with a nanoporous Au thin film that is capable of reducing CO2 to CO with 90 percent selectivity in aqueous solution. The research team’s technology will provide a basic framework for designing the semiconductor photoelectrode structure necessary for photoelectrochemical conversion. In order to achieve steady conversion of CO2, it is necessary to use a high-performance catalyst to lower overpotential. Among the metal catalysts, Au is known to be an electrocatalyst that converts CO2 to CO. Conventionally, bare Au, as a catalyst, produces a lot of hydrogen gas due to its low CO selectivity. In addition, the high cost of Au remains a challenge in using the catalyst. Professor Oh’s research team addressed the issue by creating a nanoporous Au thin film formed by the electrochemical reduction of an anodized Au thin film. As a result, the team could demonstrate an efficient, selective photoelectrochemical reduction reaction of CO2 to CO using electrochemically-treated Au thin films on a Si photoelectrode. The electrochemical reduction on anodized Au thin films forms a nanoporous thin layer exhibiting many grain boundaries of nanoparticles on the Au surface. This dramatically improves the selectivity of the reduction reaction with a maximum CO faradaic efficiency of over 90% at low overpotential and durability. The research team also used an Au thin film of about 200 nanometers, 50,000 times thinner than previously reported nanostructured Au catalysts, resulting in a cost-effective catalyst. When depositing the catalyst on the semiconductor surface in the type of nanoparticles, the substrate of the thin film will be affected in the course of electrochemical reduction. Thus, the research team designed a new Si photoelectrode with mesh-type co-catalysts that are independently wired at the front and back of the photoelectrode without influencing the photoelectrode, and made it possible for electrochemical reduction. Due to the superior CO2 reduction reaction activity of the nanoporous Au mesh and high photovoltage from Si, the Si photoelectrode with the nanoporous Au thin film mesh shows conversion of CO2 to CO with 91% Faradaic efficiency at positive potential than CO equilibrium potential. Professor Oh explained, “This technology will serve as a platform for diverse semiconductors and catalysts. Researchers can further improve the solar-to-CO2 conversion efficiency using this technology. Dr. Jun Tae Song, the first author continued, “This new approach made it possible to develop a simple but very important type of electrode structure. It is the first time to achieve CO2 conversion at the potential lower than equilibrium potential. We believe that our research will contribute to efficient CO2 conversion.” This research was published in the inside front cover of Advanced Energy Materials on February 8, 2017. The research was funded and supported by the Korea Carbon Capture & Sequestration R&D Center. Professor Sung-Yoon Chung of the EEWS also participated in this research. (Figure: Schematic diagram of a Si photoelectrode that patterns with mesh-type nanoporous Au)
Semiconductor Photonic Nanocavities on Paper Substrates
Professor Yong-Hoon Cho of the Department of Physics and his team at KAIST have developed a semiconductor photonic nanocavity laser that can operate on a paper substrate. The researchers hope that this novel method, which involves transferring nano-sized photonic crystal particles onto a paper substrate with high absorptiveness, will enable the diagnoses of various diseases by using high-tech semiconductor sensors at low cost. The results of this research were published in the November 17th, 2016, issue of Advanced Materials. Photonic crystals, which utilize light as a medium to provide high bandwidths, can transfer large amounts of information. Compared with their electronic counterparts, photonic crystals also consume less energy to operate. Normally, semiconductor photonic particles require substrates, which play only a passive role in the assembly and endurance of individual, functional photonic components. These substrates, however, are bulky and environmentally hazardous as they are made up of non-biodegradable materials. The research team overcame these two shortcomings by replacing a semiconductor substrate with standard paper. The substrate’s mass was reduced considerably, and because paper is made from trees, it degrades. Paper can be easily and cheaply acquired from our surroundings, which drastically reduces the unit cost of semiconductors. In addition, paper possesses superior mechanical characteristics. It is flexible and can be repeatedly folded and unfolded without being torn. These are traits that have long been sought by researchers for existing flexible substrates. The research team used a micro-sized stamp to detach photonic crystal nanobeam cavities selectively from their original substrate and transfer them onto a new paper substrate. Using this technique, the team removed nanophotonic crystals that had been patterned (using a process of selectively etching circuits onto a substrate) onto a semiconductor substrate with a high degree of integration, and realigned them as desired on a paper substrate. The nanophotonic crystals that the team combined with paper in this research were 0.5 micrometers in width, 6 micrometers in length, and 0.3 micrometers in height—about one-hundredth of the width of a single hair (0.1 millimeter). The team also transferred their photonic crystals onto paper with a fluid channel, which proved that it could be used as a refractive index sensor. As can be seen in current commercial pregnancy diagnosis kits, paper has high absorptiveness. Since photonic crystal particles have high sensitivity, they are highly suitable for applications such as sensors. Professor Cho stated that “by using paper substrates, this technology can greatly contribute to the rising field of producing environmentally-friendly photonic particles” and “by combining inexpensive paper and high-performance photonic crystal sensors, we can obtain low prices as well as designing appropriate technologies with high performance.” Dr. Sejeong Kim of the Department of Physics participated in this study as the first author, and Professor Kwanwoo Shin of Sogang University and Professor Yong-Hee Lee of KAIST also took part in this research. The research was supported by the National Research Foundation’s Mid-Career Researcher Program, and the Climate Change Research Hub of KAIST. Figure 1. Illustration of photonic crystal lasers on paper substrates Figure 2. Photonic crystal resonator laser and refractive index sensor operating on paper substrates
Controlling DNA Orientation Using a Brush
Professor Dong Ki Yoon’s research team in the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology has developed a technique for producing periodic DNA zigzag structures using a common make-up brush. The results of the research, first-authored by Ph.D. student Yun Jeong Cha and published in Advanced Materials (online, November 15, 2016), has been highlighted in the hot topics of “Liquid Crystals.” There exist various methods for synthesizing DNA-based nanostructures, but they commonly involved complex design processes and required expensive DNA samples with regulated base sequences. Using DNA materials extracted from salmon, the research team was able to produce a nanostructure with a well-aligned zigzag pattern at one-thousandth of the usual cost. The team used a commercial make-up brush bought at a cosmetics store, and with it, applied the salmon DNA in one direction onto a plate, in the same way paint is brushed onto paper. Using a brush with a width of several centimeters, the team aligned DNA molecules of 2 nanometers in diameter along the direction of the brush strokes. As the thin and dense film of DNA came into contact with air, it lost moisture. An expansive force was created between the dried film and the plate. This force interacted with the elastic force of DNA and caused undulations in the uni-directionally aligned DNA molecules, which resulted in a regular zigzag pattern. The zigzag DNA’s base sequences could not be controlled because it was extracted from biological sources. However, it has the advantage of being cheap and readily available without compromising its structural integrity and provides a very regular and intricate structure. This kind of well-ordered DNA structure can be used as template because it can guide or control versatile guest functional materials that are applied to its surface. For example, it can align liquid crystals used in displays, as well as metallic particles and semi-conductors. It is expected that this capacity can be extended to optoelectric devices in the future. Professor Yoon remarked that “these findings have special implications, as they have demonstrated that various materials in nature aside from DNA, such as proteins, muscle cells, and components of bones can be applied to optoelectric devices.” This research has been carried out with the support of the Korea National Research Foundation’s Nanomaterials Fundamental Technology Development Program and the Pioneer Research Center under the High-tech Convergence Technology Development Program. Source: "Control of Periodic Zigzag Structures of DNA by a Simple Shearing Method" by Yun Jeong Cha and Dong Ki Yoon (Advanced Materials, November 15, 2016, DOI: 10.1002/adma.201604247) Figure 1. Diagram showing the well-ordered zigzag structure of DNA, and the internal molecular orientation Figure 2. (Left) Unaligned DNA (Right) Aligned DNA after being brushed and dried Figure 3. Control of the periodicity of the DNA zigzag patterns using micro-channel plates Figure 4. Diagram representing the control of orientation of liquid crystal materials applied on a zigzag DNA template, and a polarized optical microscope image
Mystery of Biological Plastic Synthesis Machinery Unveiled
Plastics and other polymers are used every day. These polymers are mostly made from fossil resources by refining petrochemicals. On the other hand, many microorganisms naturally synthesize polyesters known as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) as distinct granules inside cells. PHAs are a family of microbial polyesters that have attracted much attention as biodegradable and biocompatible plastics and elastomers that can substitute petrochemical counterparts. There have been numerous papers and patents on gene cloning and metabolic engineering of PHA biosynthetic machineries, biochemical studies, and production of PHAs; simple Google search with “polyhydroxyalkanoates” yielded returns of 223,000 document pages. PHAs have always been considered amazing examples of biological polymer synthesis. It is astounding to see PHAs of 500 kDa to sometimes as high as 10,000 kDa can be synthesized in vivo by PHA synthase, the key polymerizing enzyme in PHA biosynthesis. They have attracted great interest in determining the crystal structure of PHA synthase over the last 30 years, but unfortunately without success. Thus, the characteristics and molecular mechanisms of PHA synthase were under a dark veil. In two papers published back-to-back in Biotechnology Journal online on November 30, 2016, a Korean research team led by Professor Kyung-Jin Kim at Kyungpook National University and Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) described the crystal structure of PHA synthase from Ralstonia eutropha, the best studied bacterium for PHA production, and reported the structural basis for the detailed molecular mechanisms of PHA biosynthesis. The crystal structure has been deposited to Protein Data Bank in February 2016. After deciphering the crystal structure of the catalytic domain of PHA synthase, in addition to other structural studies on whole enzyme and related proteins, the research team also performed experiments to elucidate the mechanisms of the enzyme reaction, validating detailed structures, enzyme engineering, and also N-terminal domain studies among others. Through several biochemical studies based on crystal structure, the authors show that PHA synthase exists as a dimer and is divided into two distinct domains, the N-terminal domain (RePhaC1ND) and the C-terminal domain (RePhaC1CD). The RePhaC1CD catalyzes the polymerization reaction via a non-processive ping-pong mechanism using a Cys-His-Asp catalytic triad. The two catalytic sites of the RePhaC1CD dimer are positioned 33.4 Å apart, suggesting that the polymerization reaction occurs independently at each site. This study also presents the structure-based mechanisms for substrate specificities of various PHA synthases from different classes. Professor Sang Yup Lee, who has worked on this topic for more than 20 years, said, “The results and information presented in these two papers have long been awaited not only in the PHA community, but also metabolic engineering, bacteriology/microbiology, and in general biological sciences communities. The structural information on PHA synthase together with the recently deciphered reaction mechanisms will be valuable for understanding the detailed mechanisms of biosynthesizing this important energy/redox storage material, and also for the rational engineering of PHA synthases to produce designer bioplastics from various monomers more efficiently.” Indeed, these two papers published in Biotechnology Journal finally reveal the 30-year mystery of machinery of biological polyester synthesis, and will serve as the essential compass in creating designer and more efficient bioplastic machineries. References: Jieun Kim, Yeo-Jin Kim, So Young Choi, Sang Yup Lee and Kyung-Jin Kim. “Crystal structure of Ralstonia eutropha polyhydroxyalkanoate synthase C-terminal domain and reaction mechanisms” Biotechnology Journal DOI: 10.1002/biot.201600648 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/biot.201600648/abstract Yeo-Jin Kim, So Young Choi, Jieun Kim, Kyeong Sik Jin, Sang Yup Lee and Kyung-Jin Kim. “Structure and function of the N-terminal domain of Ralstonia eutropha polyhydroxyalkanoate synthase, and the proposed structure and mechanisms of the whole enzyme” Biotechnology Journal DOI: 10.1002/biot.201600649 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/biot.201600649/abstract
KAIST Team Develops Semi-Transparent Solar Cells with Thermal Mirror Capability
A research team led by KAIST and Sungkyunkwan University professors has created semi-transparent perovskite solar cells that demonstrate high-power conversion efficiency and transmit visible light while blocking infrared light, making them great candidates for solar windows. Modern architects prefer to build exteriors designed with glass mainly from artistic or cost perspectives. Scientists, however, go one step further and see opportunities from its potential ability to harness solar energy. Researchers have thus explored ways to make solar cells transparent or semi-transparent as a substitute material for glass, but this has proven to be a challenging task because solar cells need to absorb sunlight to generate electricity, and when they are transparent, it reduces their energy efficiency. Typical solar cells today are made of crystalline silicon, but it is difficult to make them translucent. Semi-transparent solar cells under development use, for example, organic or dye-sensitized materials, but compared to crystalline silicon-based cells, their power-conversion efficiencies are relatively low. Perovskites are hybrid organic-inorganic halide-based photovoltaic materials, which are cheap to produce and easy to manufacture. They have recently received much attention as the efficiency of perovskite solar cells has rapidly increased to the level of silicon technologies in the past few years. Using perovskites, a Korean research team led by Professor Seunghyup Yoo of the Electrical Engineering School at KAIST and Professor Nam-Gyu Park of the Chemical Engineering School at Sungkyunkwan University developed a semi-transparent solar cell that is highly efficient and, additionally, functions very effectively as a thermal-mirror. The team has developed a top transparent electrode (TTE) that works well with perovskite solar cells. In most cases, a key to success in realizing semi-transparent solar cells is to find a TTE that is compatible with a given photoactive material system, which is also the case for perovskite solar cells. The proposed TTE is based on a multilayer stack consisting of a metal film sandwiched between a high refractive-index (high-index) layer and an interfacial buffer layer. This TTE, placed as a top-most layer, can be prepared without damaging ingredients used in perovskite solar cells. Unlike conventional transparent electrodes focusing only on transmitting visible light, the proposed TTE plays the dual role of passing through visible light while reflecting infrared rays. The semi-transparent solar cells made with the proposed TTEs exhibited average power conversion efficiency as high as 13.3% with 85.5% infrared rejection. The team believes that if the semi-transparent perovskite solar cells are scaled up for practical applications, they can be used in solar windows for buildings and automobiles, which not only generate electrical energy but also enable the smart heat management for indoor environments, thereby utilizing solar energy more efficiently and effectively. This result was published as a cover article in the July 20, 2016 issue of Advanced Energy Materials. The research paper is entitled “Empowering Semi-transparent Solar Cells with Thermal-mirror Functionality.” (DOI: 10.1002/aenm.201502466) The team designed the transparent electrode (TE) stack in three layers: A thin-film of silver (Ag) is placed in between the bottom interfacial layer of molybdenum trioxide (MoO3) and the top high-index dielectric layer of zinc sulfide (ZnS). Such a tri-layer approach has been known as a means to increase the overall visible-light transmittance of metallic thin films via index matching technique, which is essentially the same technique used for anti-reflection coating of glasses except that the present case involves a metallic layer. Traditionally, when a TE is based on a metal film, such as Ag, the film should be extremely thin, e.g., 7-12 nanometers (nm), to obtain transparency and, accordingly, to transmit visible light. However, the team took a different approach in this research. They made the Ag TE two or three times thicker (12-24 nm) than conventional metal films and, as a result, it reflected more infrared light. The high refractive index of the ZnS layer plays an essential role in keeping the visible light transmittance of the proposed TTE high even with the relatively thick Ag film when its thickness is carefully optimized for maximal destructive interference, leading to low reflectance (and thus high transmittance) within its visible light range. The team confirmed the semi-transparent perovskite solar cell’s thermal-mirror function through an experiment in which a halogen lamp illuminated an object for five minutes through three mediums: a window of bare glass, automotive tinting film, and the proposed semi-transparent perovskite solar cell. An infrared (IR) camera took thermal images of the object as well as that of each window’s surface. The object’s temperature, when exposed through the glass window, rose to 36.8 Celsius degrees whereas both the tinting film and the cell allowed the object to remain below 27 Celsius degrees. The tinting film absorbs light to block solar energy, so the film’s surface became hot as it was continuously exposed to the lamp light, but the proposed semi-transparent solar cell stayed cool since it rejects solar heat energy by reflection, rather than by absorption. The total solar energy rejection (TSER) of the proposed cell was as high as 89.6%. Professor Yoo of KAIST said, “The major contributions of this work are to find transparent electrode technology suitable for translucent perovskite cells and to provide a design approach to fully harness the potential it can further deliver as a heat mirror in addition to its main role as an electrode. The present work can be further fine-tuned to include colored solar cells and to incorporate flexible or rollable form factors, as they will allow for greater design freedom and thus offer more opportunities for them to be integrated into real-world objects and structures such as cars, buildings, and houses.” The lead authors are Hoyeon Kim and Jaewon Ha, both Ph.D. candidates in the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST, and Hui-Seon Kim, a student in the School of Chemical Engineering at Sungkyunkwan University. This research was supported mainly by the Climate Change Research Hub Program of KAIST. Picture 1: Semi-transparent Perovskite Solar Cell This picture shows a prototype of a semi-transparent perovskite solar cell with thermal-mirror functionality. Picture 2: A Heat Rejection Performance Comparison Experiment This picture presents thermal images taken by an infrared camera for comparing the heat rejection performance of bare glass, automotive tinting film, and a semi-transparent perovskite solar cell after being illuminated by a halogen lamp for five minutes.
KAIST Develops Transparent Oxide Thin-Film Transistors
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) era, strong demand has grown for wearable and transparent displays that can be applied to various fields such as augmented reality (AR) and skin-like thin flexible devices. However, previous flexible transparent displays have posed real challenges to overcome, which are, among others, poor transparency and low electrical performance. To improve the transparency and performance, past research efforts have tried to use inorganic-based electronics, but the fundamental thermal instabilities of plastic substrates have hampered the high temperature process, an essential step necessary for the fabrication of high performance electronic devices. As a solution to this problem, a research team led by Professors Keon Jae Lee and Sang-Hee Ko Park of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the KAIST has developed ultrathin and transparent oxide thin-film transistors (TFT) for an active-matrix backplane of a flexible display by using the inorganic-based laser lift-off (ILLO) method. Professor Lee’s team previously demonstrated the ILLO technology for energy-harvesting (Advanced Materials, February 12, 2014) and flexible memory (Advanced Materials, September 8, 2014) devices. The research team fabricated a high-performance oxide TFT array on top of a sacrificial laser-reactive substrate. After laser irradiation from the backside of the substrate, only the oxide TFT arrays were separated from the sacrificial substrate as a result of reaction between laser and laser-reactive layer, and then subsequently transferred onto ultrathin plastics ( thickness). Finally, the transferred ultrathin-oxide driving circuit for the flexible display was attached conformally to the surface of human skin to demonstrate the possibility of the wearable application. The attached oxide TFTs showed high optical transparency of 83% and mobility of even under several cycles of severe bending tests. Professor Lee said, “By using our ILLO process, the technological barriers for high performance transparent flexible displays have been overcome at a relatively low cost by removing expensive polyimide substrates. Moreover, the high-quality oxide semiconductor can be easily transferred onto skin-like or any flexible substrate for wearable application.” These research results, entitled “Skin-Like Oxide Thin-Film Transistors for Transparent Displays,” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adfm.201601296/abstract) were the lead article published in the July 2016 online issue of Wiley’s Advanced Functional Materials. ### References  Advanced Materials, February 12, 2014, Highly-efficient, Flexible Piezoelectric PZT Thin Film Nanogenerator on Plastic Substrates (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201305659/abstract)  Advanced Materials, September 8, 2014, Flexible Crossbar-structured Resistive Memory Arrays on Plastic Substartes via Inorganic-based Laser Lift-off (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201402472/abstract) Picture 1: A Schamatic Image of Ultrathin, Flexible, and Transparent Oxide Thin-film Transistors This image shows ultrathin, flexible, and transparent oxide thin-film transistors produced via the ILLO process. Picture 2: Application of Uultrathin, Flexible, and Transparent Oxide Thin-film Transistors This picture shows ultrathin, flexible, and transparent oxide thin-film transistors attached to a jumper sleeve and human skin.
Efficient Methane C-H Bond Activated by KAIST and UPenn Teams
Professor Mu-Hyun Baik of the Chemistry Department at KAIST and his team collaborated with an international team to discover a novel chemical reaction, carbon-hydrogen borylation using methane, and their research results were published in the March 25th issue of Science. For details, please refer to the following press release from the Institute for Basic Sciences (IBS) in Korea and the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. Efficient Methane C-H Bond Activation Achieved for the First Time The Institute for Basic Science, March 24, 2016 Penn Chemists Lay Groundwork for Countless New, Cleaner Uses of Methane University of Pennsylvania, March 24, 2016
Using Light to Treat Alzheimer's Disease
Medical application of photoactive chemicals offers a promising therapeutic strategy for neurodegenerative diseases. A research team jointly led by Professor Chan Beum Park of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at KAIST and Dr. Kwon Yu from the Bionano Center at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) conducted research to suppress an abnormal assembly of beta-amyloids, a protein commonly found in the brain, by using photo-excited porphyrins. Beta-amyloid plaques are known to cause Alzheimer's disease. This research finding suggests new ways to treat neurodegenerative illnesses including Alzheimer's disease. It was published online as the lead article in the September 21th issue of Angewandte Chemie. The title of the article is “Photo-excited Porphyrins as a Strong Suppressor of ß-Amyloid Aggregation and Synaptic Toxicity.” Light-induced treatments using organic photosensitizers have advantages to managing the treatment in time and area. In the case of cancer treatments, doctors use photodynamic therapies where a patient is injected with an organic photosensitizer, and a light is shed on the patient’s lesion. However, such therapies had never been employed to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Alzheimer's starts when a protein called beta-amyloid is created and deposited in a patient’s brain. The abnormally folded protein created this way harms the brain cells by inducing the degradation of brain functions, for example, dementia. If beta-amyloid creation can be suppressed at an early stage, the formation of amyloid deposits will stop. This could prevent Alzheimer’s disease or halt its progress. The research team effectively prevented the buildup of beta-amyloids by using blue LED lights and a porphyrin inducer, which is a biocompatible organic compound. By absorbing light energy, a photosensitizer such as porphyrin reaches the excitation state. Active oxygen is created as the porphyrin returns to its ground state. The active oxygen oxidizes a beta-amyloid monomer, and by combining with it, disturbs its assembly. The technique was tested on drosophilae or fruit flies, which were produced to model Alzheimer on invertebrates. The research showed that symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in the fruit flies such as damage on synapse and muscle, neuronal apoptosis, degradation in motility, and decreased longevity were alleviated. Treatments with light provide additional benefits: less medication is needed than other drug treatments, and there are fewer side effects. When developed, photodynamic therapy will be used widely for this reason. Professor Park said, “This work has significance as it was the first case to use light and photosensitizers to stop deposits of beta-amyloids. We plan to carry the research further by testing compatibility with other organic and inorganic photosensitizers and by changing the subject of photodynamic therapy to vertebrate such as mice.” Picture 1 – Deposits of Beta-Amyloid in Fruit Flies Stopped by Using Porphyrin and Blue LED Lights Picture 2 – The Research Finding Published as the Lead Article in Angewandte Chemie (September 2015)
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