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Manipulating Brain Cells by Smartphone
Researchers have developed a soft neural implant that can be wirelessly controlled using a smartphone. It is the first wireless neural device capable of indefinitely delivering multiple drugs and multiple colour lights, which neuroscientists believe can speed up efforts to uncover brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, addiction, depression, and pain. A team under Professor Jae-Woong Jeong from the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST and his collaborators have invented a device that can control neural circuits using a tiny brain implant controlled by a smartphone. The device, using Lego-like replaceable drug cartridges and powerful, low-energy Bluetooth, can target specific neurons of interest using drugs and light for prolonged periods. This study was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. “This novel device is the fruit of advanced electronics design and powerful micro and nanoscale engineering,” explained Professor Jeong. “We are interested in further developing this technology to make a brain implant for clinical applications.” This technology significantly overshadows the conventional methods used by neuroscientists, which usually involve rigid metal tubes and optical fibers to deliver drugs and light. Apart from limiting the subject’s movement due to bulky equipment, their relatively rigid structure causes lesions in soft brain tissue over time, therefore making them not suitable for long-term implantation. Although some efforts have been made to partly mitigate adverse tissue response by incorporating soft probes and wireless platforms, the previous solutions were limited by their inability to deliver drugs for long periods of time as well as their bulky and complex control setups. To achieve chronic wireless drug delivery, scientists had to solve the critical challenge of the exhaustion and evaporation of drugs. To combat this, the researchers invented a neural device with a replaceable drug cartridge, which could allow neuroscientists to study the same brain circuits for several months without worrying about running out of drugs. These ‘plug-n-play’ drug cartridges were assembled into a brain implant for mice with a soft and ultrathin probe (with the thickness of a human hair), which consisted of microfluidic channels and tiny LEDs (smaller than a grain of salt), for unlimited drug doses and light delivery. Controlled with an elegant and simple user interface on a smartphone, neuroscientists can easily trigger any specific combination or precise sequencing of light and drug delivery in any implanted target animal without the need to be physically inside the laboratory. Using these wireless neural devices, researchers can also easily setup fully automated animal studies where the behaviour of one animal could affect other animals by triggering light and/or drug delivery. “The wireless neural device enables chronic chemical and optical neuromodulation that has never been achieved before,” said lead author Raza Qazi, a researcher with KAIST and the University of Colorado Boulder. This work was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation of Korea, US National Institute of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Mallinckrodt Professorship. (A neural implant with replaceable drug cartridges and Bluetooth low-energy can target specific neurons .) (Micro LED controlling using smartphone application)
Anti-drone Technology for Anti-Terrorism Applications
(from top right clockwise: Professor Yongdae Kim, PhD Candidates Yujin Kwon, Juhwan Noh, Hocheol Shin, and Dohyun Kim) KAIST researchers have developed anti-drone technology that can hijack other drones by spoofing its location using fake GPS signals. This technology can safely guide a drone to a desired location without any sudden change in direction in emergency situations, and thus respond effectively to dangerous drones such as those intending to carry out acts of terrorism. Advancements in the drone industry have led to the wider use of drones in our daily lives in areas of reconnaissance, searching and rescuing, disaster prevention and response, and delivery services. At the same time, there has also been a growing concern about privacy, safety, and security issues regarding drones, especially those arising from intrusion into private property and secure facilities. Therefore, the anti-drone industry is rapidly expanding to detect and respond to this possible drone invasion. The current anti-drone systems used in airports and other key locations utilize electronic jamming signals, high-power lasers, or nets to neutralize drones. For example, drones trespassing on airports are often countered with simple jamming signals that can prevent the drones from moving and changing position, but this may result in a prolonged delay in flight departures and arrivals at the airports. Drones used for terrorist attacks – armed with explosives or weapons – must also be neutralized a safe distance from the public and vital infrastructure to minimize any damage. Due to this need for a new anti-drone technology to counter these threats, a KAIST research team led by Professor Yongdae Kim from the School of Electrical Engineering has developed technology that securely thwarts drones by tricking them with fake GPS signals. Fake GPS signals have been used in previous studies to cause confusion inside the drone regarding its location, making the drone drift from its position or path. However, such attack tactics cannot be applied in GPS safety mode. GPS safety mode is an emergency mode that ensures drone safety when the signal is cut or location accuracy is low due to a fake GPS signals. This mode differs between models and manufacturers. Professor Kim’s team analyzed the GPS safety mode of different drone models made from major drone manufacturers such as DJI and Parrot, made classification systems, and designed a drone abduction technique that covers almost all the types of drone GPS safety modes, and is universally applicable to any drone that uses GPS regardless of model or manufacturer. The research team applied their new technique to four different drones and have proven that the drones can be safely hijacked and guided to the direction of intentional abduction within a small margin of error. Professor Kim said, “Conventional consumer drones equipped with GPS safety mode seem to be safe from fake GPS signals, however, most of these drones are able to be detoured since they detect GPS errors in a rudimentary manner.” He continued, “This technology can contribute particularly to reducing damage to airports and the airline industry caused by illegal drone flights.” The research team is planning to commercialize the developed technology by applying it to existing anti-drone solutions through technology transfer.” This research, featured in the ACM Transactions on Privacy and Security (TOPS) on April 9, was supported by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Agency for Defense Development (ADD). Image 1. Experimental environment in which a fake GPS signal was produced from a PC and injected into the drone signal using directional antennae Publication: Juhwan Noh, Yujin Kwon, Yunmok Son, Hocheol Shin, Dohyun Kim, Jaeyeong Choi, and Yongdae Kim. 2019. Tractor Beam: Safe-hijacking of Consumer Drones with Adaptive GPS Spoofing. ACM Transactions on Privacy and Security. New York, NY, USA, Vol. 22, No. 2, Article 12, 26 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3309735 Profile: Prof. Yongdae Kim, MS, PhD email@example.com https://www.syssec.kr/ Professor School of Electrical Engineering Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) http://kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Juhwan Noh, PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org PhD Candidate System Security (SysSec) Lab School of Electrical Engineering Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) http://kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
True-meaning Wearable Displays: Self-powered, Washable and Wearable
(Video: The washing process of wearing display module) When we think about clothes, they are usually formed with textiles and have to be both wearable and washable for daily use; however, smart clothing has had a problem with its power sources and moisture permeability, which causes the devices to malfunction. This problem has now been overcome by a KAIST research team, who developed a textile-based wearable display module technology that is washable and does not require an external power source. To ease out the problem of external power sources and enhance the practicability of wearable displays, Professor Kyung Cheol Choi from the School of Electrical Engineering and his team fabricated their wearing display modules on real textiles that integrated polymer solar cells (PSCs) with organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). PSCs have been one of the most promising candidates for a next-generation power source, especially for wearable and optoelectronic applications because they can provide stable power without an external power source, while OLEDs can be driven with milliwatts. However, the problem was that they are both very vulnerable to external moisture and oxygen. The encapsulation barrier is essential for their reliability. The conventional encapsulation barrier is sufficient for normal environments; however, it loses its characteristics in aqueous environments, such as water. It limits the commercialization of wearing displays that must operate even on rainy days or after washing. To tackle this issue, the team employed a washable encapsulation barrier that can protect the device without losing its characteristics after washing through atomic layer deposition (ALD) and spin coating. With this encapsulation technology, the team confirmed that textile-based wearing display modules including PSCs, OLEDs, and the proposed encapsulation barrier exhibited little change in characteristics even after 20 washings with 10-minute cycles. Moreover, the encapsulated device operated stably with a low curvature radius of 3mm and boasted high reliability. Finally, it exhibited no deterioration in properties over 30 days even after being subjected to both bending stress and washing. Since it uses a less stressful textile, compared to conventional wearable electronic devices that use traditional plastic substrates, this technology can accelerate the commercialization of wearing electronic devices. Importantly, this wearable electronic device in daily life can save energy through a self-powered system. Professor Choi said, “I could say that this research realized a truly washable wearable electronic module in the sense that it uses daily wearable textiles instead of the plastic used in conventional wearable electronic devices. Saving energy with PSCs, it can be self-powered, using nature-friendly solar energy, and washed. I believe that it has paved the way for a ‘true-meaning wearable display’ that can be formed on textile, beyond the attachable form of wearable technology.” This research, in collaboration with Professor Seok Ho Cho from Chonnam National University and led by Eun Gyo Jeong, was published in Energy and Environmental Science (10.1039/c8ee03271h) on January 18, 2019. Figure 1. Schematic and photo of a washable wearing display module Figure 2. Cover page of Energy and Environmental Science
Wafer-Scale Multilayer Fabrication of Silk Fibroin-Based Microelectronics
A KAIST research team developed a novel fabrication method for the multilayer processing of silk-based microelectronics. This technology for creating a biodegradable silk fibroin film allows microfabrication with polymer or metal structures manufactured from photolithography. It can be a key technology in the implementation of silk fibroin-based biodegradable electronic devices or localized drug delivery through silk fibroin patterns. Silk fibroins are biocompatible, biodegradable, transparent, and flexible, which makes them excellent candidates for implantable biomedical devices, and they have also been used as biodegradable films and functional microstructures in biomedical applications. However, conventional microfabrication processes require strong etching solutions and solvents to modify the structure of silk fibroins. To prevent the silk fibroin from being damaged during the process, Professor Hyunjoo J. Lee from the School of Electrical Engineering and her team came up with a novel process, named aluminum hard mask on silk fibroin (AMoS), which is capable of micropatterning multiple layers composed of both fibroin and inorganic materials, such as metal and dielectrics with high-precision microscale alignment. The AMoS process can make silk fibroin patterns on devices, or make patterns on silk fibroin thin films with other materials by using photolithography, which is a core technology in the current microfabrication process. The team successfully cultured primary neurons on the processed silk fibroin micro-patterns, and confirmed that silk fibroin has excellent biocompatibility before and after the fabrication process and that it also can be applied to implanted biological devices. Through this technology, the team realized the multilayer micropatterning of fibroin films on a silk fibroin substrate and fabricated a biodegradable microelectric circuit consisting of resistors and silk fibroin dielectric capacitors in a silicon wafer with large areas. They also used this technology to position the micro-pattern of the silk fibroin thin film closer to the flexible polymer-based brain electrode, and confirmed the dye molecules mounted on the silk fibroin were transferred successfully from the micropatterns. Professor Lee said, “This technology facilitates wafer-scale, large-area processing of sensitive materials. We expect it to be applied to a wide range of biomedical devices in the future. Using the silk fibroin with micro-patterned brain electrodes can open up many new possibilities in research on brain circuits by mounting drugs that restrict or promote brain cell activities.” This research, in collaboration with Dr. Nakwon Choi from KIST and led by PhD candidate Geon Kook, was published in ACS AMI (10.1021/acsami.8b13170) on January 16, 2019. Figure 1. The cover page of ACS AMI Figure 2. Fibroin microstructures and metal patterns on a fibroin produced by using the AMoS mask. Figure 3. Biocompatibility assessment of the AMoS Process. Top: Schematics image of a) fibroin-coated silicon b) fibroin-pattered silicon and c) gold-patterned fibroin. Bottom: Representative confocal microscopy images of live (green) and dead (red) primary cortical neurons cultured on the substrates.
1g-Ultrasound System for the Brain Stimulation of a Freely-moving Mouse
A KAIST research team developed a light-weight capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) and succeeded in the ultrasound brain stimulation of a freely-moving mouse. With this lightweight and compact system, researchers can conduct a versatile set of in vivo experiments. Conventional methods for stimulating a specific brain region, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) and optogenetics technology, are highly invasive because they have to insert probes into a target brain, which makes them difficult to use for clinical application. While transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) are noninvasive, they have a wide range of stimulation and problems with in-depth stimulation, which makes them problematic for target-specific treatment. Therefore, noninvasive and focused ultrasound stimulation technology is gaining a great deal of attention as a next-generation brain stimulation alternative. Since it is delivered noninvasively, it can be applied safely in humans as well as animal experiments. Focused ultrasound stimulation is more advantageous than conventional methods in terms of providing both local and deep stimulation. Animal behavior experiments are essential for brain stimulation research; however, ultrasonic brain stimulation technology is currently in the early stages of development. So far, only research outcomes with fixed anesthetized mice have been studied because of the heavy ultrasonic device. Professor Hyunjoo J. Lee from the School of Electrical Engineering and her team reported a technology that can provide ultrasound stimulation to the brain of a freely-moving mouse through a microminiaturized ultrasound device. The team studied miniaturization and ultra-lightweight CMUTs through microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology and designed a device suitable for behavior experiments. The device weighing less than 1g (around 0.05% of the mouse’s weight) has the center frequency, size, focal length, and ultrasonic intensity to fit a mouse’s dimensions. To evaluate the performance of the ultrasonic device, the team stimulated the motor cortex of the mouse brain and observed the movement reaction of its forefoot. They also measured the electromyography (EMG) of the trapezius. As a result, the team confirmed that their ultrasonic device can deliver ultrasound to a depth of 3-4mm in the mouse brain and stimulate an area of the mouse brain that represents 25% of its total size. Based on this research, the team is investigating the effects of ultrasound on sleep by stimulating the brain of sleeping mice. Professor Lee said, “Going beyond experimenting on fixed anesthetized mice, this research succeeded in the brain stimulation of a freely-moving mouse. We are planning to study mice with diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, depression, and epilepsy. I believe that this basic research can contribute to treating human brain-related diseases through ultrasound brain stimulation. This research, led by Masters candidates Hyunggug Kim and Seongyeon Kim, was published in Brain Stimulation (10.1016/j.brs.2018.11.007) on November 17, 2018. Figure 1. The miniature transducer for the transcranial ultrasound of a freely-moving mouse Figure 2. Its structure and simulated 2D beam profile in the axial ad radial directions
KAIST Develops Analog Memristive Synapses for Neuromorphic Chips
(Professor Sung-Yool Choi from the School of Electrical Engineering) A KAIST research team developed a technology that makes a transition of the operation mode of flexible memristors to synaptic analog switching by reducing the size of the formed filament. Through this technology, memristors can extend their role to memristive synapses for neuromorphic chips, which will lead to developing soft neuromorphic intelligent systems. Brain-inspired neuromorphic chips have been gaining a great deal of attention for reducing the power consumption and integrating data processing, compared to conventional semiconductor chips. Similarly, memristors are known to be the most suitable candidate for making a crossbar array which is the most efficient architecture for realizing hardware-based artificial neural network (ANN) inside a neuromorphic chip. A hardware-based ANN consists of a neuron circuit and synapse elements, the connecting pieces. In the neuromorphic system, the synaptic weight, which represents the connection strength between neurons, should be stored and updated as the type of analog data at each synapse. However, most memristors have digital characteristics suitable for nonvolatile memory. These characteristics put a limitation on the analog operation of the memristors, which makes it difficult to apply them to synaptic devices. Professor Sung-Yool Choi from the School of Electrical Engineering and his team fabricated a flexible polymer memristor on a plastic substrate, and found that changing the size of the conductive metal filaments formed inside the device on the scale of metal atoms can make a transition of the memristor behavior from digital to analog. Using this phenomenon, the team developed flexible memristor-based electronic synapses, which can continuously and linearly update synaptic weight, and operate under mechanical deformations such as bending. The team confirmed that the ANN based on these memristor synapses can effectively classify person’s facial images even when they were damaged. This research demonstrated the possibility of a neuromorphic chip that can efficiently recognize faces, numbers, and objects. Professor Choi said, “We found the principles underlying the transition from digital to analog operation of the memristors. I believe that this research paves the way for applying various memristors to either digital memory or electronic synapses, and will accelerate the development of a high-performing neuromorphic chip.” In a joint research project with Professor Sung Gap Im (KAIST) and Professor V. P. Dravid (Northwestern University), this study was led by Dr. Byung Chul Jang (Samsung Electronics), Dr. Sungkyu Kim (Northwestern University) and Dr. Sang Yoon Yang (KAIST), and was published online in Nano Letters (10.1021/acs.nanolett.8b04023) on January 4, 2019. Figure 1. a) Schematic illustration of a flexible pV3D3 memristor-based electronic synapse array. b) Cross-sectional TEM image of the flexible pV3D3 memristor
Novel Material Properties of Hybrid Perovskite Nanostructures for Next-generation Non-linear Electronic Devices
(from left: Juho Lee, Dr. Muhammad Ejaz Khan and Professor Yong-Hoon Kim) A KAIST research team reported a novel non-linear device with the founding property coming from perovskite nanowires. They showed that hybrid perovskite-derived, inorganic-framework nanowires can acquire semi-metallicity, and proposed negative differential resistance (NDR) devices with excellent NDR characteristics that resulted from a novel quantum-hybridization NDR mechanism, implying the potential of perovskite nanowires to be realized in next-generation electronic devices. Organic-inorganic hybrid halide perovskites have recently emerged as prominent candidates for photonic applications due to their excellent optoelectronic properties as well as their low cost and facile synthesis processes. Prominent progresses have been already made for devices including solar cells, light-emitting diodes, lasers and photodetectors. However, research on electronic devices based on hybrid halide perovskites has not been actively pursued compared with their photonic device counterparts. Professor Yong-Hoon Kim from the School of Electrical Engineering and his team took a closer look at low-dimensional organic-inorganic halide perovskite materials, which have enhanced quantum confinement effects, and particularly focused on the recently synthesized trimethylsulfonium (TMS) lead triiodide (CH3)3SPbI3. Using supercomputer simulations, the team first showed that stripping the (CH3)3S or TMS organic ligands from the TMS PbI3 perovskite nanowires results in semi-metallic PbI3 columns, which contradicts the conventional assumption of the semiconducting or insulating characteristics of the inorganic perovskite framework. Utilizing the semi-metallic PbI3 inorganic framework as the electrode, the team designed a tunneling junction device from perovskite nanowires and found that they exhibit excellent nonlinear negative differential resistance (NDR) behavior. The NDR property is a key to realizing next-generation, ultra-low-power, and multivalued non-linear devices. Furthermore, the team found that this NDR originates from a novel mechanism that involves the quantum-mechanical hybridization between channel and electrode states. Professor Kim said, “This research demonstrates the potential of quantum mechanics-based computer simulations to lead developments in advanced nanomaterials and nanodevices. In particular, this research proposes a new direction in the development of a quantum mechanical tunneling device, which was the topic for which the Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1973 was awarded to Dr. Leo Esaki. This research, led by Dr. Muhammad Ejaz Khan and PhD candidate Juho Lee, was published online in Advanced Functional Materials (10.1002/adfm.201807620) on January 7, 2019. Figure. The draft version of the cover page of 'Advanced Functional Materials'
KAIST Develops Core Technology for Ultra-small 3D Image Sensor
(from left: Dr. Jong-Bum Yo, PhD candidate Seong-Hwan Kimand Professor Hyo-Hoon Park) A KAIST research team developed a silicon optical phased array (OPA) chip, which can be a core component for three-dimensional image sensors. This research was co-led by PhD candidate Seong-Hwan Kim and Dr. Jong-Bum You from the National Nanofab Center (NNFC). A 3D image sensor adds distance information to a two-dimensional image, such as a photo, to recognize it as a 3D image. It plays a vital role in various electronics including autonomous vehicles, drones, robots, and facial recognition systems, which require accurate measurement of the distance from objects. Many automobile and drone companies are focusing on developing 3D image sensor systems, based on mechanical light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems. However, it can only get as small as the size of a fist and has a high possibility of malfunctioning because it employs a mechanical method for laser beam-steering. OPAs have gained a great attention as a key component to implement solid-state LiDAR because it can control the light direction electronically without moving parts. Silicon-based OPAs are small, durable, and can be mass-produced through conventional Si-CMOS processes. However, in the development of OPAs, a big issue has been raised about how to achieve wide beam-steering in transversal and longitudinal directions. In the transversal direction, a wide beam-steering has been implemented, relatively easily, through a thermo-optic or electro-optic control of the phase shifters integrated with a 1D array. But the longitudinal beam-steering has been remaining as a technical challenge since only a narrow steering was possible with the same 1D array by changing the wavelengths of light, which is hard to implement in semiconductor processes. If a light wavelength is changed, characteristics of element devices consisting the OPA can vary, which makes it difficult to control the light direction with reliability as well as to integrate a wavelength-tunable laser on a silicon-based chip. Therefore, it is essential to devise a new structure that can easily adjust the radiated light in both transversal and longitudinal directions. By integrating tunable radiator, instead of tunable laser in a conventional OPA, Professor Hyo-Hoon Park from the School of Electrical Engineering and his team developed an ultra-small, low-power OPA chip that facilitates a wide 2D beam-steering with a monochromatic light source. This OPA structure allows the minimizing of the 3D image sensors, as small as a dragonfly’s eye. According to the team, the OPA can function as a 3D image sensor and also as a wireless transmitter sending the image data to a desired direction, enabling high-quality image data to be freely communicated between electronic devices. Kim said, “It’s not an easy task to integrate a tunable light source in the OPA structures of previous works. We hope our research proposing a tunable radiator makes a big step towards commercializing OPAs.” Dr. You added, “We will be able to support application researches of 3D image sensors, especially for facial recognition with smartphones and augmented reality services. We will try to prepare a processing platform in NNFC that provides core technologies of the 3D image sensor fabrication.” This research was published in Optics Letters on January 15. Figure 1.The manufactured OPA chip Figure 2. Schematic feature showing an application of the OPA to a 3D image sensor
Enhanced Video Quality despite Poor Network Conditions
(from left: Jaehong Kim, Youngmok Jung, Hyunho Yeo, Professor Dongsu Han and Professor Jinwoo Shin) Professor Jinwoo Shin and Professor Dongsu Han from the School of Electrical Engineering developed neural adaptive content-aware internet video delivery. This technology is a novel method that combines adaptive streaming over HTTP, the video transmission system adopted by YouTube and Netflix, with a deep learning model. This technology is expected to create an internet environment where users can enjoy watching 4K and AV/VR videos with high-quality and high-definition (HD) videos even with weak internet connections. Thanks to video streaming services, internet video has experienced remarkable growth; nevertheless, users often suffer from low video quality due to unfavorable network conditions. Currently, existing adaptive streaming systems adjust the quality of the video in real time, accommodating the continuously changing internet bandwidth. Various algorithms are being researched for adaptive streaming systems, but there is an inherent limitation; that is, high-quality videos cannot be streamed in poor network environments regardless of which algorithm is used. By incorporating super-resolution in adaptive streaming, the team overcame the limit of existing content distribution networks, of which their quality relies too much on the bandwidth. In the conventional method, the server that provides the video splits a video into certain lengths of time in advance. But the novel system introduced by the team allows the downloading of neural network segments. To facilitate this method, the video server needs to provide deep neural networks for each video segment as well as sizes of Deep Neural Networks (DNN) according to the specifications of the user’s computing capacity. The largest neural network size is two megabytes, which is considerably smaller than video. When downloading the neural network from the user’s video player, it is split into several segments. Even its partial download is sufficient for a slightly comprised super-resolution. While playing the video, the system converts the low quality video to a high-quality version by employing super-resolution based on deep convolution neural networks (CNN). The entire process is done in real time, and users can enjoy the high-definition video. Even with a 17% smaller bandwidth, the system can provide the Quality of Experience equivalent to the latest adaptive streaming service. At a given internet bandwidth, it can provide 43% higher average QoE than the latest service. Using a deep learning method allows this system to achieve a higher level of compression than the existing video compression methods. Their technology was recognized as a next-generation internet video system that applies super-resolution based on a deep convolution neural network to online videos. Professor Han said, “So far, it has only been implemented on desktops, but we will further develop applications that work in mobile devices as well. This technology has been applied to the same video transmission systems used by streaming channels such as YouTube and Netflix, and thus shows good signs for practicability.” This research, led by Hyunho Yeo, Youngmok Jung and Jaehong Kim, was presented at the 13th UNSENIX OSDI conference on October 10 2018 and completed for filing international patent application. For further information, please click here. Figure 1. Image quality before (left) and after (right) the technology application Figure 2. The technology Concept Figure 3. A transition from low-quality to high quality video after video transmission from the video server
Silk Adhesive Paves the Way for Epidermal Electronics
(from left: Dr. Ji-Won Seo, Professor Hyunjoo Jenny Lee and PhD candidate, Hyojung Kim) Producing effective epidermal electronics requires a strong, biocompatible interface between a biological surface and a sensor. Here, a KAIST team employed a calcium-modified silk fibroin as a biocompatible and strong adhesive. This technology led to the development of epidermal electronics with strong adhesion for patients who need drug injections and physiological monitoring over a long time. Recently, biocompatible silk fibroins has been increasingly used for flexible substrates and water-soluble sacrificial layers because they allow structural modifications and are biodegradable. From previous studies, the team discovered the adhesive properties of silk fibroin via metal chelate bonding and the water-capturing of Ca ions. Professor Hyunjoo Jenny Lee from the School of Electrical Engineering and her team explored ways to develop reusable, water-degradable, biocompatible and conductive epidermal electronics that can be attached to the human skin for long-term use. To overcome the limitations of conventional silk fibroin, the team introduced Ca ions to modify silk fibroin into a strong and biocompatible adhesive. Calcium ions adopted in silk fibroins serve to capture water and enhance the cohesion force through metal chelation. Therefore, this endows viscoelasticity to previously a firm silk fibroin. This modified silk fibroin exhibits strong viscoelasticity and strong adhesiveness when physically attached to the human skin and various polymer substrates. Their developed silk adhesive is reusable, water-degradable, biocompatible, and conductive. To test the effectiveness, the team employed the silk adhesive to fabricate an epidermal capacitive touch sensor that can be attached to the human skin. They verified the reusability of the sensor by performing attachment and detachment tests. They also confirmed that the physical adhesion of the Ca-modified silk facilitates its reusability and possesses high peel strength. Furthermore, they tested the stretchability of the silk adhesive on bladder tissue. Although it is not an epidermal skin, bladder tissue is highly stretchable. Hence, it is a perfect target to measure the resistance-strain characteristic of the silk adhesive. When the bladder tissue was stretched, the resistive strain epidermal sensor corresponded to the tensile strain. Showing high biocompatibility, the silk adhesive is suitable for interfacing with the human skin for a long period of time. Therefore, it can also be applied to a drug delivery epidermal system as well as an electrocardiogram (ECG) epidermal sensor. Professor Lee said, “We are opening up a novel use for silk by developing reusable and biodegradable silk adhesive using biocompatible silk fibroin. This technology will contribute to the development of next-generation epidermal electronics as well as drug delivery systems. This research, led by Dr. Ji-Won Seo and a PhD candidate, Hyojung Kim, was published in Advanced Functional Materials on September 5, 2018. Figure 1. Schematic and photograph of a hydrogel patch adhered on the human skin through the silk adhesive Figure 2. Cover page of Advanced Functional Materials
Lens-free OLEDs with Efficiency comparable to that of Inorganic LEDs
(from left: Professor Seunghyup Yoo and PhD candidate Jinouk Song) The use of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) has extended to various applications, but their efficiency is still lagging behind inorganic light-emitting diodes. In this research, a KAIST team provided a systematic way to yield OLEDs with an external quantum efficiency (EQE) greater than 50% with an external scattering medium. Having properties suitable for thin and flexible devices, OLEDs are popular light sources for displays, such as mobile devices and high quality TVs. In recent years, numerous efforts have been made to apply OLEDs in lighting as well as light sources for vehicles. For such applications, high efficiency is of the upmost importance for the successful deployment of light sources. Thanks to continuous research and the development of OLEDs, their efficiency is steadily on the rise, and a level equivalent to inorganic LEDs has been demonstrated in some reports. However, these highly efficient OLEDs were often achieved with a macroscopic lens or complex internal nanostructures, which undermines the key advantages of OLEDs as an affordable planar light sources and tends to hinder their stable operation, thus putting a limitation to their commercialization. Among various methods proven effective for OLED light extraction, a team led by Professor Seunghyup Yoo at the School of Electrical Engineering focused on the external scattering-based approach, as it can maintain planar geometry and compatibility with flexibility. It is also able to be fabricated on a large scale at a low cost and causes no interference with electrical properties of OLEDs. Conventionally, research on enhancing OLED light extraction using light scattering has been conducted empirically in many cases. This time, the team developed comprehensive and analytical methodology to theoretically predict structures that maximize efficiency. Considering OLEDs with the external scattering layers as a whole rather than two separate entities, the researchers combined the mathematical description of the scattering phenomena with the optical model for light emission within an OLED to rapidly predict the characteristics of many devices with various structures. Based on this approach, the team theoretically predicted the optimal combination of scattering layers and OLED architectures that can lead to the maximum efficiency. Following this theoretical prediction, the team experimentally produced the optimal light scattering film and incorporated it to OLEDs with orange emitters having a high degree of horizontal dipole orientation. As a result, the team successfully realized OLEDs exhibiting EQE of 56% and power efficiency of 221 lm/W. This is one of the highest efficiencies ever realized for an OLED unit device without the help of a macroscopic lens or internal light extraction structures. Professor Yoo said, “There are various technologies developed for improving OLED light extraction efficiency; nevertheless, most of them have not reached a level of practical use. This research mainly provides a systematic way to attain an EQE of 50% or higher in OLEDs while keeping in mind the constraints for commercialization. The approach shown here can readily be applied to lighting devices or sensors of wearable devices.”. This research, co-led by Professor Jang-Joo Kim from Seoul National University and Professor Yun-Hi Kim from Gyeongsang National University, was published in Nature Communications on August 10, 2018. (J. Song et al. Nature Communications, 9, 3207. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05671-x) Figure 1.Photographs of OLEDs with SiO₂ -embedded scattering layers according to scatterance
High-Performance Flexible Transparent Force Touch Sensor for Wearable Devices
Researchers reported a high-performance and transparent nanoforce touch sensor by developing a thin, flexible, and transparent hierarchical nanocomposite (HNC) film. The research team says their sensor simultaneously features all the necessary characters for industrial-grade application: high sensitivity, transparency, bending insensitivity, and manufacturability. Force touch sensors that recognize the location and pressure of external stimuli have received considerable attention for various applications, such as wearable devices, flexible displays, and humanoid robots. For decades, huge amounts of research and development have been devoted to improving pressure sensitivity to realize industrial-grade sensing devices. However, it remains a challenge to apply force touch sensors in flexible applications because sensing performance is subject to change and degraded by induced mechanical stress and deformation when the device is bent. To overcome these issues, the research team focused on the development of non-air gap sensors to break away from the conventional technology where force touch sensors need to have air-gaps between electrodes for high sensitivity and flexibility. The proposed non air-gap force touch sensor is based on a transparent nanocomposite insulator containing metal nanoparticles which can maximize the capacitance change in dielectrics according to the pressure, and a nanograting substrate which can increase transparency as well as sensitivity by concentrating pressure. As a result, the team succeeded in fabricating a highly sensitive, transparent, flexible force touch sensor that is mechanically stable against repetitive pressure. Furthermore, by placing the sensing electrodes on the same plane as the neutral plane, the force touch sensor can operate, even when bending to the radius of the ballpoint pen, without changes in performance levels. The proposed force touch has also satisfied commercial considerations in mass production such as large-area uniformity, production reproducibility, and reliability according to temperature and long-term use. Finally, the research team applied the developed sensor to a pulse-monitoring capable healthcare wearable device and detected a real-time human pulse. In addition, the research team confirmed with HiDeep, Inc. that a seven-inch large-area sensor can be integrated into a commercial smartphone. The team of Professor Jun-Bo Yoon, PhD student Jae-Young Yoo, and Dr. Min-Ho Seo from the School of Electrical Engineering carried out this study that was featured as a back cover in Advanced Functional Materials Journal. PhD student Jae-Young Yoo who led this research said, "We successfully developed an industrial-grade force touch sensor by using a simple structure and fabrication process. We expect it to be widely used in user touch interfaces and wearable devices." This research was supported by the Basic Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT, and also supported by the Open Innovation Lab Cooperation Project funded by the National Nano Fab Center. Figure 1. Schematic illustration of a transparent, flexible force touch sensor (upper image) and sensitivity enhancement by using stress concentration (lower image).
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