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Professor Sang Gyu Kim Receives Yeochon Award for Ecology
Professor Sang-Gyu Kim from the Department of Biological Sciences was selected as the winner of the 12th Yeochon Award for Ecology presented by the Yeochon Association for Ecological Research. The award was conferred on August 13 in Jeju at the annual conference co-hosted by the Ecological Society of Korea and the Yeochon Association for Ecological Research. Professor Kim received 10 million KRW in prize money. Professor Kim was recognized for his achievements and contributions in studying herbivorous insects ‘rice weevils’ and their host plant ‘wild tobacco’, especially for having explored the known facts in traditional ecology at the molecular level. His findings are presented in his paper titled ‘Trichobaris weevils distinguish amongst toxic host plants by sensing volatiles that do not affect larval performance’ published in Molecular Ecology in July 2016. Furthermore, Professor Kim’s research team is continuing their work to identify the ecological functions of plant metabolites as well as interactions between flowers and insect vectors at the molecular level. In doing so, the team edits genes in various plant species using the latest gene editing technology. The Yeochon Award for Ecology was first established in 2005 with funds donated by a senior ecologist, the late Honorary Professor Joon-Ho Kim of Seoul National University. The award is named after the professor’s pen name “Yeochon” and is intended to encourage promising next-generation ecologists to produce outstanding research achievements in the field of basic ecology. Professor Kim said, “I will take this award as encouragement to continue taking challenging risks to observe ecological phenomenon from a new perspective. I will continue my research with my students with joy and enthusiasm.”
Enhanced Natural Gas Storage to Help Reduce Global Warming
< Professor Atilhan (left) and Professor Yavuz (right) > Researchers have designed plastic-based materials that can store natural gas more effectively. These new materials can not only make large-scale, cost-effective, and safe natural gas storage possible, but further hold a strong promise for combating global warming. Natural gas (predominantly methane) is a clean energy alternative. It is stored by compression, liquefaction, or adsorption. Among these, adsorbed natural gas (ANG) storage is a more efficient, cheaper, and safer alternative to conventional compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage approaches that have drawbacks such as low storage efficiency, high costs, and safety concerns. However, developing adsorptive materials that can more fully exploit the advantages of ANG storage has remained a challenging task. A KAIST research team led by Professor Cafer T. Yavuz from the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water, and Sustainability (EEWS), in collaboration with Professor Mert Atilhan’s group from Texas A&M University, synthesized 29 unique porous polymeric structures with inherent flexibility, and tested their methane gas uptake capacity at high pressures. These porous polymers had varying synthetic complexities, porosities, and morphologies, and the researchers subjected each porous polymer to pure methane gas under various conditions to study the ANG performances. Of these 29 distinct chemical structures, COP-150 was particularly noteworthy as it achieved a high deliverable gravimetric methane working capacity when cycled between 5 and 100 bar at 273 K, which is 98% of the total uptake capacity. This result surpassed the target set by the United States Department of Energy (US DOE). COP-150 is the first ever structure to fulfil both the gravimetric and volumetric requirements of the US DOE for successful vehicular use, and the total cost to produce the COP-150 adsorbent was only 1 USD per kilogram. COP-150 can be produced using freely available and easily accessible plastic materials, and moreover, its synthesis takes place at room temperature, open to the air, and no previous purification of the chemicals is required. The pressure-triggered flexible structure of COP-150 is also advantageous in terms of the total working capacity of deliverable methane for real applications. The research team believed that the increased pressure flexes the network structure of COP-150 showing “swelling” behavior, and suggested that the flexibility provides rapid desorption and thermal management, while the hydrophobicity and the nature of the covalently bonded framework allow these promising materials to tolerate harsh conditions. This swelling mechanism of expansion-contraction solves two other major issues, the team noted. Firstly, when using adsorbents based on such a mechanism, unsafe pressure spikes that may occur due to temperature swings can be eliminated. In addition, contamination can also be minimized, since the adsorbent remains contracted when no gas is stored. Professor Yavuz said, “We envision a whole host of new designs and mechanisms to be developed based on our concept. Since natural gas is a much cleaner fuel than coal and petroleum, new developments in this realm will help switching to the use of less polluting fuels.” Professor Atilhan agreed the most important impact of their research is on the environment. “Using natural gas more than coal and petroleum will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We believe, one day, we might see vehicles equipped with our materials that are run by a cleaner natural gas fuel,” he added. This study, reported in Nature Energy on July 8, was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grants ( NRF-2016R1A2B4011027, NRF-2017M3A7B4042140, and NRF-2017M3A7B4042235). < Suggested chemical structure of COP-150 > < Initial ingredients (left) and final product (right) of COP-150 synthesis > < Comparison of highest reported volumetric working capacities > (END)
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)
Chem-E-Car Team to Vie for World Title
Team KAItalyst, composed of KAIST undergraduate students, celebrated victory in the regional qualifying rounds of the 2019 International Chem-E-Car Competition held at KAIST’s Main Campus in Daejeon on July 20. The high finish in the national rankings qualified the team for a trip to the world finals to be held in Orlando, Florida, USA, in November. The Chem-E-Car Competition involves designing and building a shoebox-sized model car that is powered and controlled by chemical reactions. University students from all over the world have been actively participating in this competition since the competition was introduced by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in 1999. KAIST first entered the competition in 2014, won the world finals in 2016, and then received the Most Consistent Award in 2017 and 2018. In recognition of KAIST’s consistently outstanding performance in the competition, AIChE asked KAIST to host this year’s regional competition for the first time in Korea. Although a number of Korean university student teams have shown great interest in participating in this regional competition, most were not able to successfully implement their technology, and only two teams each from KAIST and Seoul National University (SNU) joined the competition. Each team collaborated to fabricate a chemically powered model car that could carry a payload, and travel any distance between 15 and 30 meters. The weight of the payload and the travelling distance were randomly set an hour before the competition started, to require the participating teams adapt and perform calculations in a short period of time. The goal was to stop travelling exactly at the randomly chosen distance. The car closest to the finish line at the end of the race earned the highest amount of points. Precise control over chemical reactions was key to landing directly on the mark. Team KAItalyst, consisting of six KAIST undergraduate students majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering and mechanical engineering, beat their SNU rivals by stopping their car 1.5 meters closer to the goal at the end of the 22.5 meter-long race. Team KAItalyst loaded vanadium redox flow batteries onto their car to stabilize its output, and further increased the accuracy and velocity of chemical reactions through iodine clock reactions. 200 USD was awarded to Team KAItalyst, and 100 USD in prize money went to the SNU team. KAItalyst team leader Jee-Hyun Hong said, “This was the first time for us to develop and drive our own chemically-powered model car, and we learned a lot from the challenges we faced,” Hong continued, “We will step up our efforts to perform better in the upcoming international competition.” The world finals will be held during the AIChE Fall Meeting in Orlando, Florida in November. Students from over 50 universities worldwide including the Georgia Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University will compete against each other. The first, second, and third prizes at the finals will be 2,000, 1,000, and 500 USD respectively. Professor Dong-Yeun Koh of the KAIST Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department who advised Team KAItalyst remarked, “I hope this year’s regional competition that KAIST held for the first time as a Korean university will be a possible starting point for more Korean universities to participate and compete in the future.” (END)
Synthesizing Single-Crystalline Hexagonal Graphene Quantum Dots
(Figure: Uniformly ordered single-crystalline graphene quantum dots of various sizes synthesized through solution chemistry.) A KAIST team has designed a novel strategy for synthesizing single-crystalline graphene quantum dots, which emit stable blue light. The research team confirmed that a display made of their synthesized graphene quantum dots successfully emitted blue light with stable electric pressure, reportedly resolving the long-standing challenges of blue light emission in manufactured displays. The study, led by Professor O Ok Park in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, was featured online in Nano Letters on July 5. Graphene has gained increased attention as a next-generation material for its heat and electrical conductivity as well as its transparency. However, single and multi-layered graphene have characteristics of a conductor so that it is difficult to apply into semiconductor. Only when downsized to the nanoscale, semiconductor’s distinct feature of bandgap will be exhibited to emit the light in the graphene. This illuminating featuring of dot is referred to as a graphene quantum dot. Conventionally, single-crystalline graphene has been fabricated by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) on copper or nickel thin films, or by peeling graphite physically and chemically. However, graphene made via chemical vapor deposition is mainly used for large-surface transparent electrodes. Meanwhile, graphene made by chemical and physical peeling carries uneven size defects. The research team explained that their graphene quantum dots exhibited a very stable single-phase reaction when they mixed amine and acetic acid with an aqueous solution of glucose. Then, they synthesized single-crystalline graphene quantum dots from the self-assembly of the reaction intermediate. In the course of fabrication, the team developed a new separation method at a low-temperature precipitation, which led to successfully creating a homogeneous nucleation of graphene quantum dots via a single-phase reaction. Professor Park and his colleagues have developed solution phase synthesis technology that allows for the creation of the desired crystal size for single nanocrystals down to 100 nano meters. It is reportedly the first synthesis of the homogeneous nucleation of graphene through a single-phase reaction. Professor Park said, "This solution method will significantly contribute to the grafting of graphene in various fields. The application of this new graphene will expand the scope of its applications such as for flexible displays and varistors.” This research was a joint project with a team from Korea University under Professor Sang Hyuk Im from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea, the Nano-Material Technology Development Program from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), KAIST EEWS, and the BK21+ project from the Korean government.
'Flying Drones for Rescue'
(Video Credit: ⓒNASA JPL) < Team USRG and Professor Shim (second from the right) > Having recently won the AI R&D Grand Challenge Competition in Korea, Team USRG (Unmanned System Research Group) led by Professor Hyunchul Shim from the School of Electrical Engineering is all geared up to take on their next challenges: the ‘Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Subterranean Challenge (DARPA SubT Challenge)’ and ‘Lockheed Martin’s AlphaPilot Challenge’ next month. Team USRG won the obstacle course race in the ‘2019 AI R&D Grand Challenge Competition’ on July 12. They managed to successfully dominate the challenging category of ‘control intelligence.’ Having to complete the obstacle course race solely using AI systems without any connection to the internet made it difficult for most of the eight participating teams to pass the third section of the race, and only Team USRG passed the long pipeline course during their attempt in the main event. They also demonstrated, after the main event, that their drone can navigate all of the checkpoints including landing on the “H” mark using deep learning. Their drone flew through polls and pipes, and escaped from windows and mazes against strong winds, amid cheers and groans from the crowd gathered at the Korea Exhibition Center (KINTEX) in Goyang, Korea. The team was awarded three million KRW in prize money, and received a research grant worth six hundred million KRW from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT). “Being ranked first in the race for which we were never given a chance for a test flight means a lot to our team. Considering that we had no information on the exact size of the course in advance, this is a startling result,” said Professor Shim. “We will carry out further research with this funding, and compete once again with the improved AI and drone technology in the 2020 competition,” he added. The AI R&D Grand Challenge Competition, which was first started in 2017, has been designed to promote AI research and development and expand its application to addressing high-risk technical challenges with significant socio-economic impact. This year’s competition presented participants with a task where they had to develop AI software technology for drones to navigate themselves autonomously during complex disaster relief operations such as aid delivery. Each team participated in one of the four tracks of the competition, and their drones were evaluated based on the criteria for each track. The divisions were broken up into intelligent context-awareness, intelligent character recognition, auditory intelligence, and control intelligence. Team USRG’s technological prowess has been already well acclaimed among international peer groups. Teamed up with NASA JPL, Caltech, and MIT, they will compete in the subterranean mission during the ‘DARPA SubT Challenge’. Team CoSTAR, as its name stands for, is working together to build ‘Collaborative SubTerranean Autonomous Resilient Robots.’ Professor Shim emphasized the role KAIST plays in Team CoSTAR as a leader in drone technology. “I think when our drone technology will be added to our peers’ AI and robotics, Team CoSTAR will bring out unsurpassable synergy in completing the subterrestrial and planetary applications. I would like to follow the footprint of Hubo, the winning champion of the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge and even extend it to subterranean exploration,” he said. These next generation autonomous subsurface explorers are now all optimizing the physical AI robot systems developed by Team CoSTAR. They will test their systems in more realistic field environments August 15 through 22 in Pittsburgh, USA. They have already received funding from DARPA for participating. Team CoSTAR will compete in three consecutive yearly events starting this year, and the last event, planned for 2021, will put the team to the final test with courses that incorporate diverse challenges from all three events. Two million USD will be awarded to the winner after the final event, with additional prizes of up to 200,000 USD for self-funded teams. Team USRG also ranked third in the recent Hyundai Motor Company’s ‘Autonomous Vehicle Competition’ and another challenge is on the horizon: Lockheed Martin’s ‘AlphaPilot Challenge’. In this event, the teams will be flying their drones through a series of racing gates, trying to beat the best human pilot. The challenge is hosted by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest military contractor and the maker of the famed F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, with the goal of stimulating the development of autonomous drones. Team USRG was selected from out of more than 400 teams from around the world and is preparing for a series of races this fall, beginning from the end of August. Professor Shim said, “It is not easy to perform in a series of competitions in just a few months, but my students are smart, hardworking, and highly motivated. These events indeed demand a lot, but they really challenge the researchers to come up with technologies that work in the real world. This is the way robotics really should be.” (END)
Flexible User Interface Distribution for Ubiquitous Multi-Device Interaction
< Research Group of Professor Insik Shin (center) > KAIST researchers have developed mobile software platform technology that allows a mobile application (app) to be executed simultaneously and more dynamically on multiple smart devices. Its high flexibility and broad applicability can help accelerate a shift from the current single-device paradigm to a multiple one, which enables users to utilize mobile apps in ways previously unthinkable. Recent trends in mobile and IoT technologies in this era of 5G high-speed wireless communication have been hallmarked by the emergence of new display hardware and smart devices such as dual screens, foldable screens, smart watches, smart TVs, and smart cars. However, the current mobile app ecosystem is still confined to the conventional single-device paradigm in which users can employ only one screen on one device at a time. Due to this limitation, the real potential of multi-device environments has not been fully explored. A KAIST research team led by Professor Insik Shin from the School of Computing, in collaboration with Professor Steve Ko’s group from the State University of New York at Buffalo, has developed mobile software platform technology named FLUID that can flexibly distribute the user interfaces (UIs) of an app to a number of other devices in real time without needing any modifications. The proposed technology provides single-device virtualization, and ensures that the interactions between the distributed UI elements across multiple devices remain intact. This flexible multimodal interaction can be realized in diverse ubiquitous user experiences (UX), such as using live video steaming and chatting apps including YouTube, LiveMe, and AfreecaTV. FLUID can ensure that the video is not obscured by the chat window by distributing and displaying them separately on different devices respectively, which lets users enjoy the chat function while watching the video at the same time. In addition, the UI for the destination input on a navigation app can be migrated into the passenger’s device with the help of FLUID, so that the destination can be easily and safely entered by the passenger while the driver is at the wheel. FLUID can also support 5G multi-view apps – the latest service that allows sports or games to be viewed from various angles on a single device. With FLUID, the user can watch the event simultaneously from different viewpoints on multiple devices without switching between viewpoints on a single screen. PhD candidate Sangeun Oh, who is the first author, and his team implemented the prototype of FLUID on the leading open-source mobile operating system, Android, and confirmed that it can successfully deliver the new UX to 20 existing legacy apps. “This new technology can be applied to next-generation products from South Korean companies such as LG’s dual screen phone and Samsung’s foldable phone and is expected to embolden their competitiveness by giving them a head-start in the global market.” said Professor Shin. This study will be presented at the 25th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (ACM MobiCom 2019) October 21 through 25 in Los Cabos, Mexico. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) (CNS-1350883 (CAREER) and CNS-1618531). Figure 1. Live video streaming and chatting app scenario Figure 2. Navigation app scenario Figure 3. 5G multi-view app scenario Publication: Sangeun Oh, Ahyeon Kim, Sunjae Lee, Kilho Lee, Dae R. Jeong, Steven Y. Ko, and Insik Shin. 2019. FLUID: Flexible User Interface Distribution for Ubiquitous Multi-device Interaction. To be published in Proceedings of the 25th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (ACM MobiCom 2019). ACM, New York, NY, USA. Article Number and DOI Name TBD. Video Material: https://youtu.be/lGO4GwH4enA Profile: Prof. Insik Shin, MS, PhD email@example.com https://cps.kaist.ac.kr/~ishin Professor Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) Lab School of Computing Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) http://kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Sangeun Oh, PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org https://cps.kaist.ac.kr/ PhD Candidate Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) Lab School of Computing Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) http://kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Prof. Steve Ko, PhD email@example.com https://nsr.cse.buffalo.edu/?page_id=272 Associate Professor Networked Systems Research Group Department of Computer Science and Engineering State University of New York at Buffalo http://www.buffalo.edu/ Buffalo 14260, USA (END)
Deciphering Brain Somatic Mutations Associated with Alzheimer's Disease
Researchers have found a potential link between non-inherited somatic mutations in the brain and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease Researchers have identified somatic mutations in the brain that could contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Their findings were published in the journal Nature Communications last week. Decades worth of research has identified inherited mutations that lead to early-onset familial AD. Inherited mutations, however, are behind at most half the cases of late onset sporadic AD, in which there is no family history of the disease. But the genetic factors causing the other half of these sporadic cases have been unclear. Professor Jeong Ho Lee at the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering and colleagues analysed the DNA present in post-mortem hippocampal formations and in blood samples from people aged 70 to 96 with AD and age-matched controls. They specifically looked for non-inherited somatic mutations in their brains using high-depth whole exome sequencing. The team developed a bioinformatics pipeline that enabled them to detect low-level brain somatic single nucleotide variations (SNVs) – mutations that involve the substitution of a single nucleotide with another nucleotide. Brain somatic SNVs have been reported on and accumulate throughout our lives and can sometimes be associated with a range of neurological diseases. The number of somatic SNVs did not differ between individuals with AD and non-demented controls. Interestingly, somatic SNVs in AD brains arise about 4.8 times more slowly than in blood. When the team performed gene-set enrichment tests, 26.9 percent of the AD brain samples had pathogenic brain somatic SNVs known to be linked to hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins, which is one of major hallmarks of AD. Then, they pinpointed a pathogenic SNV in the PIN1 gene, a cis/trans isomerase that balances phosphorylation in tau proteins, found in one AD patient’s brain. They found the mutation was 4.9 time more abundant in AT8-positive – a marker for hyper-phosphorylated tau proteins– neurons in the entorhinal cortex than the bulk hippocampal tissue. Furthermore, in a series of functional assays, they observed the mutation causing a loss of function in PIN1 and such haploinsufficiency increased the phosphorylation and aggregation of tau proteins. “Our study provides new insights into the molecular genetic factors behind Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases potentially linked to somatic mutations in the brain,” said Professor Lee. The team is planning to expand their study to a larger cohort in order to establish stronger links between these brain somatic mutations and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. (Figure 1. Bioinformatic pipeline for detecting low-level brain somatic mutations in AD and non-AD.) (Figure 2. Pathogenic brain somatic mutations associated with tau phosphorylation are significantly enriched in AD brains.) (Figure 3. A pathogenic brain somatic mutation in PIN1 (c. 477 C>T) is a loss-of-function and related functional assays show its haploinsufficiency increases phosphorylation and aggregation of tau.)
High-Performance Sodium Ion Batteries Using Copper Sulfide
(Prof.Yuk and his two PhD candidates Parks) Researchers presented a new strategy for extending sodium ion batteries’ cyclability using copper sulfide as the electrode material. This strategy has led to high-performance conversion reactions and is expected to advance the commercialization of sodium ion batteries as they emerge as an alternative to lithium ion batteries. Professor Jong Min Yuk’s team confirmed the stable sodium storage mechanism using copper sulfide, a superior electrode material that is pulverization-tolerant and induces capacity recovery. Their findings suggest that when employing copper sulfide, sodium ion batteries will have a lifetime of more than five years with one charge per a day. Even better, copper sulfide, composed of abundant natural materials such as copper and sulfur, has better cost competitiveness than lithium ion batteries, which use lithium and cobalt. Intercalation-type materials such as graphite, which serve as commercialized anode materials in lithium ion batteries, have not been viable for high-capacity sodium storage due to their insufficient interlayer spacing. Thus, conversion and alloying reactions type materials have been explored to meet higher capacity in the anode part. However, those materials generally bring up large volume expansions and abrupt crystallographic changes, which lead to severe capacity degradation. The team confirmed that semi-coherent phase interfaces and grain boundaries in conversion reactions played key roles in enabling pulverization-tolerant conversion reactions and capacity recovery, respectively. Most of conversion and alloying reactions type battery materials usually experience severe capacity degradations due to having completely different crystal structures and large volume expansion before and after the reactions. However, copper sulfides underwent a gradual crystallographic change to make the semi-coherent interfaces, which eventually prevented the pulverization of particles. Based on this unique mechanism, the team confirmed that copper sulfide exhibits a high capacity and high cycling stability regardless of its size and morphology. Professor Yuk said, “Sodium ion batteries employing copper sulfide can advance sodium ion batteries, which could contribute to the development of low-cost energy storage systems and address the micro-dust issue” This study was posted in Advanced Science on April 26 online and selected as the inside back cover for June issue. (Figure: Schematic model demonstrating grain boundaries and phase interfaces formations.)
Micropatch Made of DNA
Researchers reported the fabrication of microstructure arrays of DNA materials using topographic control. This method provides a platform for forming multiscale hierarchical orientations of soft and biomaterials using a process of simple shearing and controlled evaporation on a patterned substrate. This approach enables the potential of patterning applications using DNA or other anisotropic biomaterials. DNA is one of the most abundant biomaterials found in all living organisms in nature. It has unique characteristics of fine feature size and liquid crystalline phase, enabling to create various kinds of microstructure DNA arrays. Based on these characteristics, DNA has been used as a building block for “origami” and textile art at the nanometer scale. A KAIST research team led by Professors Dong Ki Yoon and Hyungsoo Kim fabricated a DNA-based micropatch using the “coffee ring effect” and its multi-angle control technology, which was published online in Nature Communications on June 7. The research team used cheap DNA material extracted from salmon to realize the micropatch structure with well-aligned knit or ice cream cone shapes. When the DNA material in an aqueous solution is rubbed between two solid substrates while water is evaporating, DNA chains are unidirectionally aligned to make a thin film such as in LCD display devices. The DNA chains can make more complex microstructures such as knit or a texture with ice cream cone shapes when the same procedure is carried out in topographical patterns like microposts (Figure 1). This can be applied to make metamaterials by mixing with functionalized gold nanorods to show plasmonic color. Plasmon resonance is a phenomenon in which electrons vibrate uniformly on the surface of a substrate made of metal, reacting only to light that matches a specific energy to enhance the clarity and expression of colors. For this, the most important factor is the orientation in which the gold nanorods align. That is, when the rods are aligned side by side in one direction, the optical and electrical characteristics are maximized. The research team focused on this point and made the DNA micropatch as a frame to orient the gold nanorods in a unique shape and fabricated a plasmonic color film (Figure 2). Professor Yoon said this study is meaningful in that it deals with the evaporation phenomenon, which has not been studied much in the field of polymers and biopolymers in terms of basic science. He explained, “This will also help maximize the efficiency of polymeric materials that can be orientated in coating, 2D, and 3D printing applications. Furthermore, DNA that exists infinitely in nature can be expected to have industrial application value as a new material since it can easily form complexes with other materials as described in this study.” (Figure 1. The DNA micropatch using topographic control. (a) The experimental scheme. (b) Enlarged image of (e). (c-e) Different micropatches made of DNA using different shearing directions.) (Figure 2. The knit-like structures made of DNA-gold nanorod complex. (a,b) Optical and polarized optical microscopy images. (c-f) Plasmonic colors reflected from aligned DNA-gold nanorod complex depending on the sample rotation.)
Professor Lee Elected as a Council Member of ION
< Professor Jiyun Lee > Professor Jiyun Lee from the Department of Aerospace Engineering became the first professor of Korean university to be selected as a council member of the Institute of Navigation (ION), serving specifically as a technical representative. ION is a world-leading organization established in 1945 and dedicated to advancing Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) technologies. ION’s international membership is drawn not only from professionals in the fields of navigation, engineering, astronomy, education, and general aviation and the airline industry, but also from various supporting institutions, corporations, and government agencies. Professor Lee has been actively engaged in the Institute’s academic and community activities as a technical advisor for the Satellite Division in the Asia-Pacific region, a chair of the International Technical Meeting, as well as a section chair of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS+) Conference. She has also published 34 papers in numerous ION journals and conference proceedings over the past 10 years while serving as an associate editor of the ION Navigation Journal. From these activities, Professor Lee was recognized for her academic achievements and committed leadership, which led her to be appointed as the first professor from a Korean university to participate on the Council. She will serve her term over the next two years, and conduct day-to-day operations for the Institute mainly related to developing new programs and strategies for the advancement of PNT technologies and discovering new distinguished members.
Wearable Robot 'WalkON Suit' Off to Cybathlon 2020
Standing upright and walking alone are very simple but noble motions that separate humans from many other creatures. Wearable and prosthetic technologies have emerged to augment human function in locomotion and manipulation. However, advances in wearable robot technology have been especially momentous to Byoung-Wook Kim, a triplegic for 22 years following a devastating car accident. Kim rejoiced after standing upright and walking again by putting on the ‘WalkON Suit,’ the wearable robot developed by Professor Kyoungchul Kong’s team. Even more, Kim won third prize in the powered exoskeleton race at Cybathlon 2016, an international cyborg Olympics hosted by ETH Zurich. Now Kim and Professor Kong’s team are all geared up for the Cybathlon Championship 2020. Professor Kong and his startup, Angel Robotics, held a kickoff ceremony for Cybathlon 2020 at KAIST on June 24. The 2020 championship will take place in Switzerland. Only pilots with complete paralysis of the legs resulting from spinal cord injuries are eligible to participate in the Cybathlon, which takes place every four years. Pilots compete against each other while completing everyday tasks using technical assistance systems in six different disciplines: a brain-computer interface race, a functional electrical stimulation bike race, a powered arm prosthesis race, a powered leg prosthesis race, a powered exoskeleton race, and a powered wheelchair race. The 2016 championship drew 66 pilots from 56 teams representing 25 countries. In the powered exoskeleton race, pilots complete everyday activities such as getting up from a sofa and overcoming obstacles such as stairs, ramps, or slopes and up to four pilots compete simultaneously on tracks to solve six tasks; and the pilot that solves the most tasks in the least amount of time wins the race. (Kim, a triplegic for 22 years demonstrates walking and climbing the stairs (below photo) wearing the WalkOn Suit during the media day on June 21 at KAIST.) Kim, who demonstrated walking and climbing the stairs wearing the WalkON Suit during the media day for the Cybathlon 2020 kickoff ceremony on June 21 at KAIST, said, “I have been confined to a wheelchair for more than 20 years. I am used to it so I feel like the wheelchair is one of my body parts. Actually, I don’t feel any big difficulties in doing everyday tasks in wheelchair. But whenever I face the fact that I will never be able to stand up with my own two legs again, I am so devastated.” He continued, “I still remember the day when I stood up with my own two legs by myself after 22 years. It was beyond description.” The market for wearable robots, especially for exoskeleton robots, is continuing to grow as the aging population has been a major challenge in almost every advanced country. The global market for these robots expects to see annual growth of 41.2% to 8.3 billion US dollars by 2025. Healthcare wearable robots for the elderly and rehabilitation take up the half of the market share followed by wearable robots for industrial and defense purposes. Professor Kong from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and his colleagues have developed two wearable robot systems in 2014: The "WalkON Suit" for complete paraplegics and “Angel Suit” for those with partial impairment in walking ability such as the elderly and rehabilitation patients. Professor Kong said after 15 years of basic research, the team is now able to develop its own distinct technologies. He said their robots are powered by non-resistant precision drives with algorithms recognizing the user’s moving intention. Incorporated with prosthetic devices technology from the Severance Rehabilitation Hospital, their control technology has led to the production of a customizable robot suit optimized for each user’s physical condition. The WalkON Suit, which boasts a maximum force of 250 Nm and maximum rotation speed of 45 RPM, gives the user high-energy efficiency modeled after the physiology of the human leg. It allows users to walk on flat ground and down stairs, climb up and down inclines, and sit and lie down. Currently the battery lasts five to six hours for locomotion and the approximate 25 kg of robot weight still remains a technical challenge to upgrade. Professor Kong’s team has grafted AR glass technology into the WalkOn Suit that one of his pilots put on for the torch relay of the PyongChang Paralympics in 2018. His team is now upgrading the WalkON Suit 4.0 for next year’s competition. Severance Rehabilitation Hospital will help the seven pilots with their training. Professor Kong said his goal is to make robots that can make people with disabilities much more independent. He stressed, “Wearable robots should be designed for each single user. We provide a very good graphical user interface so that we can design, check, and also verify our optimized design for users’ best performance.” (Seven pilots and Professor Kong (fifth from left in second row) pose with guests who joined the Cybathlon 2020 kickoff ceremony. President Shin (fifth from right) made a congratulatory remarks during the ceremony.)
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