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KAIST Research Team Proves How a Neurotransmitter may be the Key in Controlling Alzheimer’s Toxicity
With nearly 50 million dementia patients worldwide, and Alzheimers’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease. Its main symptom is the impairment of general cognitive abilities, including the ability to speak or to remember. The importance of finding a cure is widely understood with increasingly aging population and the life expectancy being ever-extended. However, even the cause of the grim disease is yet to be given a clear definition. A KAIST research team in the Department of Chemistry led by professor Mi Hee Lim took on a lead to discovered a new role for somatostatin, a protein-based neurotransmitter, in reducing the toxicity caused in the pathogenic mechanism taken towards development of Alzheimer’s disease. The study was published in the July issue of Nature Chemistry under the title, “Conformational and functional changes of the native neuropeptide somatostatin occur in the presence of copper and amyloid-β”. According to the amyloid hypothesis, the abnormal deposition of Aβ proteins causes death of neuronal cells. While Aβ agglomerations make up most of the aged plaques through fibrosis, in recent studies, high concentrations of transitional metal were found in the plaques from Alzheimer’s patients. This suggests a close interaction between metallic ions and Aβ, which accelerates the fibrosis of proteins. Copper in particular is a redox-activating transition metal that can produce large amounts of oxygen and cause serious oxidative stress on cell organelles. Aβ proteins and transition metals can closely interact with neurotransmitters at synapses, but the direct effects of such abnormalities on the structure and function of neurotransmitters are yet to be understood. Figure 1. Functional shift of somatostatin (SST) by factors in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Figure 2. Somatostatin’s loss-of-function as neurotransmitter. a. Schematic diagram of SST auto-aggregation due to Alzheimer's pathological factors. b. SST’s aggregation by copper ions. c. Coordination-prediction structure and N-terminal folding of copper-SST. d. Inhibition of SST receptor binding specificity by metals. In their research, Professor Lim’s team discovered that when somatostatin, the protein-based neurotransmitter, is met with copper, Aβ, and metal-Aβ complexes, self-aggregates and ceases to perform its innate function of transmitting neural signals, but begins to attenuate the toxicity and agglomeration of metal-Aβ complexes. Figure 3. Gain-of-function of somatostatin (SST) in the dementia setting. a. Prediction of docking of SST and amyloid beta. b. SST making metal-amyloid beta aggregates into an amorphous form. c. Cytotoxic mitigation effect of SST. d. SST mitigating the interaction between amyloid beta protein with the cell membrane. This research, by Dr. Jiyeon Han et al. from the KAIST Department of Chemistry, revealed the coordination structure between copper and somatostatin at a molecular level through which it suggested the agglomeration mechanism, and discovered the effects of somatostatin on Aβ agglomeration path depending on the presence or absence of metals. The team has further confirmed somatostatin’s receptor binding, interactions with cell membranes, and effects on cell toxicity for the first time to receive international attention. Professor Mi Hee Lim said, “This research has great significance in having discovered a new role of neurotransmitters in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.” “We expect this research to contribute to defining the pathogenic network of neurodegenerative diseases caused by aging, and to the development of future biomarkers and medicine,” she added. This research was conducted jointly by Professor Seung-Hee Lee’s team of KAIST Department of Biological Sciences, Professor Kiyoung Park’s Team of KAIST Department of Chemistry, and Professor Yulong Li’s team of Peking University. The research was funded by Basic Science Research Program of the National Research Foundation of Korea and KAIST. For more information about the research team, visit the website: https://sites.google.com/site/miheelimlab/1-professor-mi-hee-lim.
Professor Byungha Shin Named Scientist of the Month
Professor Byungha Shin from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering won the Scientist of the Month Award presented by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) on May 4. Professor Shin was recognized for his research in the field of next-generation perovskite solar cells and received 10 million won in prize money. To achieve ‘carbon neutrality,’ which many countries across the globe including Korea hope to realize, the efficiency of converting renewable energies to electricity must be improved. Solar cells convert solar energy to electricity. Since single solar cells show lower efficiency, the development of ‘tandem solar cells’ that connect two or more cells together has been popular in recent years. However, although ‘perovskite’ received attention as a next-generation material for tandem solar cells, it is sensitive to the external environment including light and moisture, making it difficult to maintain stability. Professor Shin discovered that, theoretically, adding certain anion additives to perovskite solar cells would allow the control of the electrical and structural properties of the two-dimensional stabilization layer that forms inside the film. He confirmed this through high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. Controlling the amount of anions in the additives allowed the preservation of over 80% of the initial stability even after 1000 hours of continuous exposure to sunlight. Based on this discovery, Professor Shin combined silicon with solar cells to create a tandem solar cell with 26.7% energy convergence efficiency. Considering that the highest-efficiency tandem solar cell in existence showed 29.5% efficiency, this figure is quite high. Professor Shin’s perovskite solar cell is also combinable with the CIGS (Cu(In,Ga)Se2) thin-film solar cell composed of copper (Cu), indium (In), gallium (Ga), and selenium (Se2). Professor Shin’s research results were published in the online edition of the journal Science in April of last year. “This research is meaningful for having suggested a direction for solar cell material stabilization using additives,” said Professor Shin. “I look forward to this technique being applied to a wide range of photoelectrical devices including solar cells, LEDs, and photodetectors,” he added. (END)
Professor Bumjoon Kim Named Scientist of the Month
Professor Bumjoon Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering won January’s Scientist of the Month Award presented by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) on January 6. Professor Kim also received 10 million won in prize money. Professor Kim was recognized for his research in the field of fuel cells. Since the first paper on fuel cells was published in 1839 by the German chemist Friedrich Schonbein, there has been an increase in the number of fields in which fuel cells are used, including national defense, aerospace engineering, and autonomous vehicles. Professor Kim developed carbonized block copolymer particles with high durability and a high-performance fuel cell. Block copolymers are two different polymers cross-linked into a chain structure. Various nanostructures can be made effectively by using the attractive and repulsive forces between the chains. Professor Kim used the membrane emulsification technique, employing a high-performance separation membrane to develop a platform that makes the mass production of highly durable carbonized particles possible, which he then used to develop high-performance energy devices like fuel cells. The carbonized particles designed by Professor Kim and his research team were used to create the world’s more durable fuel cells that boast outstanding performance while using only five percent of the costly platinum needed for existing commercialized products. The team’s research results were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and Energy Environmental Science in May and July of last year. “We have developed a fuel cell that ticks all the boxes including performance, durability, and cost,” said Professor Kim. “Related techniques will not be limited to fuel cells, but could also be applied to the development of various energy devices like solar cells and secondary cells,” he added. (END)
Scientist of October: Professor Jungwon Kim
Professor Jungwon Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering was selected as the ‘Scientist of the Month’ for October 2020 by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Research Foundation of Korea. Professor Kim was recognized for his contributions to expanding the horizons of the basics of precision engineering through his research on multifunctional ultrahigh-speed, high-resolution sensors. He received 10 million KRW in prize money. Professor Kim was selected as the recipient of this award in celebration of “Measurement Day”, which commemorates October 26 as the day in which King Sejong the Great established a volume measurement system. Professor Kim discovered that the time difference between the pulse of light created by a laser and the pulse of the current produced by a light-emitting diode was as small as 100 attoseconds (10-16 seconds). He then developed a unique multifunctional ultrahigh-speed, high-resolution Time-of-Flight (TOF) sensor that could take measurements of multiple points at the same time by sampling electric light. The sensor, with a measurement speed of 100 megahertz (100 million vibrations per second), a resolution of 180 picometers (1/5.5 billion meters), and a dynamic range of 150 decibels, overcame the limitations of both existing TOF techniques and laser interferometric techniques at the same time. The results of this research were published in Nature Photonics on February 10, 2020. Professor Kim said, “I’d like to thank the graduate students who worked passionately with me, and KAIST for providing an environment in which I could fully focus on research. I am looking forward to the new and diverse applications in the field of machine manufacturing, such as studying the dynamic phenomena in microdevices, or taking ultraprecision measurement of shapes for advanced manufacturing.” (END)
Simple Molecular Reagents to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease
- Researchers report minimalistic principles for designing small molecules with multiple reactivities against dementia. - Sometimes the most complex problems actually have very simple solutions. A group of South Korean researchers reported an efficient and effective redox-based strategy for incorporating multiple functions into simple molecular reagents against neurodegenerative disorders. The team developed redox-active aromatic molecular reagents with a simple structural composition that can simultaneously target and modulate various pathogenic factors in complex neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders, affecting one in ten people over the age of 65. Early-onset dementia also increasingly affects younger people. A number of pathogenic elements such as reactive oxygen species, amyloid-beta, and metal ions have been suggested as potential causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Each element itself can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, but interactions between them may also aggravate the patient’s condition or interfere with the appropriate clinical care. For example, when interacting with amyloid-beta, metal ions foster the aggregation and accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides that can induce oxidative stress and toxicity in the brain and lead to neurodegeneration. Because these pathogenic factors of Alzheimer’s disease are intertwined, developing therapeutic agents that are capable of simultaneously regulating metal ion dyshomeostasis, amyloid-beta agglutination, and oxidative stress responses remains a key to halting the progression of the disease. A research team led by Professor Mi Hee Lim from the Department of Chemistry at KAIST demonstrated the feasibility of structure-mechanism-based molecular design for controlling a molecule’s chemical reactivity toward the various pathological factors of Alzheimer’s disease by tuning the redox properties of the molecule. This study, featured as the ‘ACS Editors’ Choice’ in the May 6th issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), was conducted in conjunction with KAIST Professor Mu-Hyun Baik’s group and Professor Joo-Young Lee’s group at the Asan Medical Center. Professor Lim and her collaborators rationally designed and generated 10 compact aromatic molecules presenting a range of redox potentials by adjusting the electronic distribution of the phenyl, phenylene, or pyridyl moiety to impart redox-dependent reactivities against the multiple pathogenic factors in Alzheimer’s disease. During the team’s biochemical and biophysical studies, these designed molecular reagents displayed redox-dependent reactivities against numerous desirable targets that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease such as free radicals, metal-free amyloid-beta, and metal-bound amyloid-beta. Further mechanistic results revealed that the redox properties of these designed molecular reagents were essential for their function. The team demonstrated that these reagents engaged in oxidative reactions with metal-free and metal-bound amyloid-beta and led to chemical modifications. The products of such oxidative transformations were observed to form covalent adducts with amyloid-beta and alter its aggregation. Moreover, the administration of the most promising candidate molecule significantly attenuated the amyloid pathology in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice and improved their cognitive defects. Professor Lim said, “This strategy is straightforward, time-saving, and cost-effective, and its effect is significant. We are excited to help enable the advancement of new therapeutic agents for neurodegenerative disorders, which can improve the lives of so many patients.” This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea, the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), and the Asan Institute for Life Sciences. Image credit: Professor Mi Hee Lim, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image, with proper attribution, as part of the news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Kim, M. et al. (2020) ‘Minimalistic Principles for Designing Small Molecules with Multiple Reactivities against Pathological Factors in Dementia.’ Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), Volume 142, Issue 18, pp.8183-8193. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1021/jacs.9b13100 Profile: Mi Hee Lim Professor email@example.com http://sites.google.com/site/miheelimlab Lim Laboratory Department of Chemistry KAIST Profile: Mu-Hyun Baik Professor firstname.lastname@example.org https://baik-laboratory.com/ Baik Laboratory Department of Chemistry KAIST Profile: Joo-Yong Lee Professor email@example.com Asan Institute for Life Sciences Asan Medical Center (END)
Breastfeeding Helps Prevent Mothers from Developing Diabetes after Childbirth
A team of South Korean researchers found that lactation can lower the incidence and reduce the risk of maternal postpartum diabetes. The researchers identified that lactation increases the mass and function of pancreatic beta cells through serotonin production. The team suggested that sustained improvements in pancreatic beta cells, which can last for years even after the cessation of lactation, improve mothers’ metabolic health in addition to providing health benefits for infants. Pregnancy imposes a substantial metabolic burden on women through weight gain and increased insulin resistance. Various other factors, including a history of gestational diabetes, maternal age, and obesity, further affect women’s risk of progressing to diabetes after delivery, and the risk of postpartum diabetes increases more in women who have had gestational diabetes and/or repeated deliveries. Diabetes-related complications include damage to blood vessels, which can lead to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke, and problems with the nerves, eyes, kidneys, and many more. Since diabetes can pose a serious threat to mothers’ metabolic health, the management of maternal metabolic risk factors is important, especially in the peripartum period. Previous epidemiological studies have reported that lactation reduces the risk of postpartum diabetes, but the mechanisms underlying this benefit have remained elusive. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine on April 29, explains the biology underpinning this observation on the beneficial effects of lactation. Professor Hail Kim from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST led and jointly conducted the study in conjunction with researchers from the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH) and Chungnam National University (CNU) in Korea, and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the US. In their study, the team observed that the milk-secreting hormone ‘prolactin’ in lactating mothers not only promotes milk production, but also plays a major role in stimulating insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells that regulate blood glucose in the body. The researchers also found that ‘serotonin’, known as a chemical that contributes to wellbeing and happiness, is produced in pancreatic beta cells during lactation. Serotonin in pancreatic beta cells act as an antioxidant and reduce oxidative stress, making mothers’ beta cells healthier. Serotonin also induces the proliferation of beta cells, thereby increasing the beta cell mass and helping maintain proper glucose levels. The research team conducted follow-up examinations on a total of 174 postpartum women, 85 lactated and 99 non-lactated, at two months postpartum and annually thereafter for at least three years. The results demonstrated that mothers who had undergone lactation improved pancreatic beta cell mass and function, and showed improved glucose homeostasis with approximately 20mg/dL lower glucose levels, thereby reducing the risk of postpartum diabetes in women. Surprisingly, this beneficial effect was maintained after the cessation of lactation, for more than three years after delivery. Professor Kim said, “We are happy to prove that lactation benefits female metabolic health by improving beta cell mass and function as well as glycemic control.” “Our future studies on the modulation of the molecular serotonergic pathway in accordance with the management of maternal metabolic risk factors may lead to new therapeutics to help prevent mothers from developing metabolic disorders,” he added. This work was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the National Research Council of Science and Technology (NST) of Korea, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, and the Health Fellowship Foundation. Image credit: Professor Hail Kim, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Moon, J. H et al. (2020) ‘Lactation improves pancreatic β cell mass and function through serotonin production.’ Science Translational Medicine, 12, eaay0455. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aay0455 Profile: Hail Kim, MD, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org Associate Professor Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering (GSMSE) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Profile: Hak Chul Jang, MD, PhD email@example.com Professor Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH) President Korean Diabetes Association Profile: Joon Ho Moon, MD, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org Clinical Fellow Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism SNUBH Profile: Hyeongseok Kim, MD, PhD email@example.com Assistant Professor Chungnam National University (CNU) Profile: Professor Michael S. German, MD Michael.German@ucsf.edu Professor Diabetes Center University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) (END)
Highly Efficient and Stable Double Layer Solar Cell Developed
Solar cells convert light into energy, but they can be inefficient and vulnerable to the environment, degrading with, ironically, too much light or other factors, including moisture and low temperature. An international research team has developed a new type of solar cell that can both withstand environmental hazards and is 26.7% efficient in power conversion. They published their results on March 26 in Science. The researchers, led by Byungha Shin, a professor from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST, focused on developing a new class of light-absorbing material, called a wide bandgap perovskite. The material has a highly effective crystal structure that can process the power needs, but it can become problematic when exposed to environmental hazards, such as moisture. Researchers have made some progress increasing the efficiency of solar cells based on perovskite, but the material has greater potential than what was previously achieved. To achieve better performance, Shin and his team built a double layer solar cell, called tandem, in which two or more light absorbers are stacked together to better utilize solar energy. To use perovskite in these tandem devices, the scientists modified the material’s optical property, which allows it to absorb a wider range of solar energy. Without the adjustment, the material is not as useful in achieving high performing tandem solar cells. The modification of the optical property of perovskite, however, comes with a penalty — the material becomes hugely vulnerable to the environment, in particular, to light. To counteract the wide bandgap perovskite’s delicate nature, the researchers engineered combinations of molecules composing a two-dimensional layer in the perovskite, stabilizing the solar cells. “We developed a high-quality wide bandgap perovskite material and, in combination with silicon solar cells, achieved world-class perovskite-silicon tandem cells,” Shin said. The development was only possible due to the engineering method, in which the mixing ratio of the molecules building the two-dimensional layer are carefully controlled. In this case, the perovskite material not only improved efficiency of the resulting solar cell but also gained durability, retaining 80% of its initial power conversion capability even after 1,000 hours of continuous illumination. This is the first time such a high efficiency has been achieved with a wide bandgap perovskite single layer alone, according to Shin. “Such high-efficiency wide bandgap perovskite is an essential technology for achieving ultra-high efficiency of perovskite-silicon tandem (double layer) solar cells,” Shin said. “The results also show the importance of bandgap matching of upper and lower cells in these tandem solar cells.” The researchers, having stabilized the wide bandgap perovskite material, are now focused on developing even more efficient tandem solar cells that are expected to have more than 30% of power conversion efficiency, something that no one has achieved yet, “Our ultimate goal is to develop ultra-high-efficiency tandem solar cells that contribute to the increase of shared solar energy among all energy sources,” Shin said. “We want to contribute to making the planet healthier.” This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea, the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning, the Ministry of Trade Industry and Energy of Korea, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Other contributors include Daehan Kim, Jekyung Kim, Passarut Boonmongkolras, Seong Ryul Pae and Minkyu Kim, all of whom affiliated with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST. Other authors include Byron W. Larson, Sean P. Dunfield, Chuanxiao Xiao, Jinhui Tong, Fei Zhang, Joseph J. Berry, Kai Zhu and Dong Hoe Kim, all of who are affiliated with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. Dunfield is also affiliated with the Materials Science and Engineering Program at the University of Colorado; Berry is also affiliated with the Department of Physics and the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Kim is also affiliated with the Department of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Engineering at Sejong University. Hee Joon Jung and Vinayak Dravid of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University; Ik Jae Park, Su Geun Ji and Jin Young Kim of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Seoul National University; and Seok Beom Kang of the Department of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Engineering of Sejong University also contributed. Image credit: Professor Byungha Shin, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Kim et al. (2020) “Efficient, stable silicon tandem cells enabled by anion-engineered wide band gap perovskites”. Science. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aba3433 Profile: Byungha Shin Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://energymatlab.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Materials Science and Engineering KAIST Profile: Daehan Kim Ph.D. Candidate email@example.com http://energymatlab.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Materials Science and Engineering KAIST (END)
Ultrathin but Fully Packaged High-Resolution Camera
- Biologically inspired ultrathin arrayed camera captures super-resolution images. - The unique structures of biological vision systems in nature inspired scientists to design ultracompact imaging systems. A research group led by Professor Ki-Hun Jeong have made an ultracompact camera that captures high-contrast and high-resolution images. Fully packaged with micro-optical elements such as inverted micro-lenses, multilayered pinhole arrays, and gap spacers on the image sensor, the camera boasts a total track length of 740 μm and a field of view of 73°. Inspired by the eye structures of the paper wasp species Xenos peckii, the research team completely suppressed optical noise between micro-lenses while reducing camera thickness. The camera has successfully demonstrated high-contrast clear array images acquired from tiny micro lenses. To further enhance the image quality of the captured image, the team combined the arrayed images into one image through super-resolution imaging. An insect’s compound eye has superior visual characteristics, such as a wide viewing angle, high motion sensitivity, and a large depth of field while maintaining a small volume of visual structure with a small focal length. Among them, the eyes of Xenos peckii and an endoparasite found on paper wasps have hundreds of photoreceptors in a single lens unlike conventional compound eyes. In particular, the eye structures of an adult Xenos peckii exhibit hundreds of photoreceptors on an individual eyelet and offer engineering inspiration for ultrathin cameras or imaging applications because they have higher visual acuity than other compound eyes. For instance, Xenos peckii’s eye-inspired cameras provide a 50 times higher spatial resolution than those based on arthropod eyes. In addition, the effective image resolution of the Xenos peckii’s eye can be further improved using the image overlaps between neighboring eyelets. This unique structure offers higher visual resolution than other insect eyes. The team achieved high-contrast and super-resolution imaging through a novel arrayed design of micro-optical elements comprising multilayered aperture arrays and inverted micro-lens arrays directly stacked over an image sensor. This optical component was integrated with a complementary metal oxide semiconductor image sensor. This is first demonstration of super-resolution imaging which acquires a single integrated image with high contrast and high resolving power reconstructed from high-contrast array images. It is expected that this ultrathin arrayed camera can be applied for further developing mobile devices, advanced surveillance vehicles, and endoscopes. Professor Jeong said, “This research has led to technological advances in imaging technology. We will continue to strive to make significant impacts on multidisciplinary research projects in the fields of microtechnology and nanotechnology, seeking inspiration from natural photonic structures.” This work was featured in Light Science & Applications last month and was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of and the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) of Korea. Image credit: Professor Ki-Hun Jeong, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Kisoo Kim, Kyung-Won Jang, Jae-Kwan Ryu, and Ki-Hun Jeong. (2020) “Biologically inspired ultrathin arrayed camera for high-contrast and high-resolution imaging”. Light Science & Applications. Volume 9. Article 28. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41377-020-0261-8 Profile: Ki-Hun Jeong Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://biophotonics.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Bio and Brain Engineering KAIST Profile: Kisoo Kim Ph.D. Candidate email@example.com http://biophotonics.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Bio and Brain Engineering KAIST (END)
Wearable Strain Sensor Using Light Transmittance Helps Measure Physical Signals Better
KAIST researchers have developed a novel wearable strain sensor based on the modulation of optical transmittance of a carbon nanotube (CNT)-embedded elastomer. The sensor is capable of sensitive, stable, and continuous measurement of physical signals. This technology, featured in the March 4th issue of ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces as a front cover article, shows great potential for the detection of subtle human motions and the real-time monitoring of body postures for healthcare applications. A wearable strain sensor must have high sensitivity, flexibility, and stretchability, as well as low cost. Those used especially for health monitoring should also be tied to long-term solid performance, and be environmentally stable. Various stretchable strain sensors based on piezo-resistive and capacitive principles have been developed to meet all these requirements. Conventional piezo-resistive strain sensors using functional nanomaterials, including CNTs as the most common example, have shown high sensitivity and great sensing performance. However, they suffer from poor long-term stability and linearity, as well as considerable signal hysteresis. As an alternative, piezo-capacitive strain sensors with better stability, lower hysteresis, and higher stretchability have been suggested. But due to the fact that piezo-capacitive strain sensors exhibit limited sensitivity and strong electromagnetic interference caused by the conductive objects in the surrounding environment, these conventional stretchable strain sensors are still facing limitations that are yet to be resolved. A KAIST research team led by Professor Inkyu Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering suggested that an optical-type stretchable strain sensor can be a good alternative to resolve the limitations of conventional piezo-resistive and piezo-capacitive strain sensors, because they have high stability and are less affected by environmental disturbances. The team then introduced an optical wearable strain sensor based on the light transmittance changes of a CNT-embedded elastomer, which further addresses the low sensitivity problem of conventional optical stretchable strain sensors. In order to achieve a large dynamic range for the sensor, Professor Park and his researchers chose Ecoflex as an elastomeric substrate with good mechanical durability, flexibility, and attachability on human skin, and the new optical wearable strain sensor developed by the research group actually shows a wide dynamic range of 0 to 400%. In addition, the researchers propagated the microcracks under tensile strain within the film of multi-walled CNTs embedded in the Ecoflex substrate, changing the optical transmittance of the film. By doing so, it was possible for them to develop a wearable strain sensor having a sensitivity 10 times higher than conventional optical stretchable strain sensors. The proposed sensor has also passed the durability test with excellent results. The sensor’s response after 13,000 sets of cyclic loading was stable without any noticeable drift. This suggests that the sensor response can be used without degradation, even if the sensor is repeatedly used for a long time and in various environmental conditions. Using the developed sensor, the research team could measure the finger bending motion and used it for robot control. They also developed a three-axes sensor array for body posture monitoring. The sensor was able to monitor human motions with small strains such as a pulse near the carotid artery and muscle movement around the mouth during pronunciation. Professor Park said, “In this study, our group developed a new wearable strain sensor platform that overcomes many limitations of previously developed resistive, capacitive, and optical-type stretchable strain sensors. Our sensor could be widely used in a variety of fields including soft robotics, wearable electronics, electronic skin, healthcare, and even entertainment.” This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea. Publication: Jimin Gu, Donguk Kwon, Junseong Ahn, and Inkyu Park. (2020) “Wearable Strain sensors Using Light Transmittance Change of Carbon Nanotube-Embedded Elastomers with Microcracks” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. Volume 12. Issue 9. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1021/acsami.9b18069 Profile: Inkyu Park Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://mintlab1.kaist.ac.kr Micro/Nano Transducers Laboratory (MINT Lab) Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME)Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Profile: Jimin Gu Ph.D. Candidate email@example.com http://mintlab1.kaist.ac.kr MINT Lab KAIST ME (END)
3D Hierarchically Porous Nanostructured Catalyst Helps Efficiently Reduce CO2
- This new catalyst will bring CO2 one step closer to serving as a sustainable energy source. - KAIST researchers developed a three-dimensional (3D) hierarchically porous nanostructured catalyst with carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO) conversion rate up to 3.96 times higher than that of conventional nanoporous gold catalysts. This new catalyst helps overcome the existing limitations of the mass transport that has been a major cause of decreases in the CO2 conversion rate, holding a strong promise for the large-scale and cost-effective electrochemical conversion of CO2 into useful chemicals. As CO2 emissions increase and fossil fuels deplete globally, reducing and converting CO2 to clean energy electrochemically has attracted a great deal of attention as a promising technology. Especially due to the fact that the CO2 reduction reaction occurs competitively with hydrogen evolution reactions (HER) at similar redox potentials, the development of an efficient electrocatalyst for selective and robust CO2 reduction reactions has remained a key technological issue. Gold (Au) is one of the most commonly used catalysts in CO2 reduction reactions, but the high cost and scarcity of Au pose obstacles for mass commercial applications. The development of nanostructures has been extensively studied as a potential approach to improving the selectivity for target products and maximizing the number of active stable sites, thus enhancing the energy efficiency. However, the nanopores of the previously reported complex nanostructures were easily blocked by gaseous CO bubbles during aqueous reactions. The CO bubbles hindered mass transport of the reactants through the electrolyte, resulting in low CO2 conversion rates. In the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS) on March 4, a research group at KAIST led by Professor Seokwoo Jeon and Professor Jihun Oh from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering designed a 3D hierarchically porous Au nanostructure with two different sizes of macropores and nanopores. The team used proximity-field nanopatterning (PnP) and electroplating techniques that are effective for fabricating the 3D well-ordered nanostructures. The proposed nanostructure, comprised of interconnected macroporous channels 200 to 300 nanometers (nm) wide and 10 nm nanopores, induces efficient mass transport through the interconnected macroporous channels as well as high selectivity by producing highly active stable sites from numerous nanopores. As a result, its electrodes show a high CO selectivity of 85.8% at a low overpotential of 0.264 V and efficient mass activity that is up to 3.96 times higher than that of de-alloyed nanoporous Au electrodes. “These results are expected to solve the problem of mass transfer in the field of similar electrochemical reactions and can be applied to a wide range of green energy applications for the efficient utilization of electrocatalysts,” said the researchers. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea. Image credit: Professor Seokwoo Jeon and Professor Jihun Oh, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Hyun et al. (2020) Hierarchically porous Au nanostructures with interconnected channels for efficient mass transport in electrocatalytic CO2 reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS). Available online at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1918837117 Profile: Seokwoo Jeon, PhD Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://fdml.kaist.ac.kr Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) https://www.kaist.ac.kr Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)Daejeon, Republic of Korea Profile: Jihun Oh, PhD Associate Professor email@example.com http://les.kaist.ac.kr Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Department of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability (EEWS) KAIST Profile: Gayea Hyun PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org http://fdml.kaist.ac.kr Flexible Devices and Metamaterials Laboratory (FDML) Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) KAIST Profile: Jun Tae Song, PhD Assistant Professor email@example.com http://www.cstf.kyushu-u.ac.jp/~ishihara-lab/ Department of Applied Chemistry https://www.kyushu-u.ac.jp Kyushu UniversityFukuoka, Japan (END)
New Liquid Metal Wearable Pressure Sensor Created for Health Monitoring Applications
Soft pressure sensors have received significant research attention in a variety of fields, including soft robotics, electronic skin, and wearable electronics. Wearable soft pressure sensors have great potential for the real-time health monitoring and for the early diagnosis of diseases. A KAIST research team led by Professor Inkyu Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a highly sensitive wearable pressure sensor for health monitoring applications. This work was reported in Advanced Healthcare Materials on November 21 as a front cover article. This technology is capable of sensitive, precise, and continuous measurement of physiological and physical signals and shows great potential for health monitoring applications and the early diagnosis of diseases. A soft pressure sensor is required to have high compliance, high sensitivity, low cost, long-term performance stability, and environmental stability in order to be employed for continuous health monitoring. Conventional solid-state soft pressure sensors using functional materials including carbon nanotubes and graphene have showed great sensing performance. However, these sensors suffer from limited stretchability, signal drifting, and long-term instability due to the distance between the stretchable substrate and the functional materials. To overcome these issues, liquid-state electronics using liquid metal have been introduced for various wearable applications. Of these materials, Galinstan, a eutectic metal alloy of gallium, indium, and tin, has great mechanical and electrical properties that can be employed in wearable applications. But today’s liquid metal-based pressure sensors have low-pressure sensitivity, limiting their applicability for health monitoring devices. The research team developed a 3D-printed rigid microbump array-integrated, liquid metal-based soft pressure sensor. With the help of 3D printing, the integration of a rigid microbump array and the master mold for a liquid metal microchannel could be achieved simultaneously, reducing the complexity of the manufacturing process. Through the integration of the rigid microbump and the microchannel, the new pressure sensor has an extremely low detection limit and enhanced pressure sensitivity compared to previously reported liquid metal-based pressure sensors. The proposed sensor also has a negligible signal drift over 10,000 cycles of pressure, bending, and stretching and exhibited excellent stability when subjected to various environmental conditions. These performance outcomes make it an excellent sensor for various health monitoring devices. First, the research team demonstrated a wearable wristband device that can continuously monitor one’s pulse during exercise and be employed in a noninvasive cuffless BP monitoring system based on PTT calculations. Then, they introduced a wireless wearable heel pressure monitoring system that integrates three 3D-BLiPS with a wireless communication module. Professor Park said, “It was possible to measure health indicators including pulse and blood pressure continuously as well as pressure of body parts using our proposed soft pressure sensor. We expect it to be used in health care applications, such as the prevention and the monitoring of the pressure-driven diseases such as pressure ulcers in the near future. There will be more opportunities for future research including a whole-body pressure monitoring system related to other physical parameters.” This work was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT. < Figure 1. The front cover image of Advanced Healthcare Materials, Volume 8, Issue 22. > < Figure 2. Highly sensitive liquid metal-based soft pressure sensor integrated with 3D-printed microbump array. > < Figure 3. High pressure sensitivity and reliable sensing performances of the proposed sensor and wireless heel pressure monitoring application. > -ProfileProfessor Inkyu ParkMicro/Nano Transducers Laboratoryhttp://mintlab1.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Mechanical EngineeringKAIST
AI to Determine When to Intervene with Your Driving
(Professor Uichin Lee (left) and PhD candidate Auk Kim) Can your AI agent judge when to talk to you while you are driving? According to a KAIST research team, their in-vehicle conservation service technology will judge when it is appropriate to contact you to ensure your safety. Professor Uichin Lee from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at KAIST and his research team have developed AI technology that automatically detects safe moments for AI agents to provide conversation services to drivers. Their research focuses on solving the potential problems of distraction created by in-vehicle conversation services. If an AI agent talks to a driver at an inopportune moment, such as while making a turn, a car accident will be more likely to occur. In-vehicle conversation services need to be convenient as well as safe. However, the cognitive burden of multitasking negatively influences the quality of the service. Users tend to be more distracted during certain traffic conditions. To address this long-standing challenge of the in-vehicle conversation services, the team introduced a composite cognitive model that considers both safe driving and auditory-verbal service performance and used a machine-learning model for all collected data. The combination of these individual measures is able to determine the appropriate moments for conversation and most appropriate types of conversational services. For instance, in the case of delivering simple-context information, such as a weather forecast, driver safety alone would be the most appropriate consideration. Meanwhile, when delivering information that requires a driver response, such as a “Yes” or “No,” the combination of driver safety and auditory-verbal performance should be considered. The research team developed a prototype of an in-vehicle conversation service based on a navigation app that can be used in real driving environments. The app was also connected to the vehicle to collect in-vehicle OBD-II/CAN data, such as the steering wheel angle and brake pedal position, and mobility and environmental data such as the distance between successive cars and traffic flow. Using pseudo-conversation services, the research team collected a real-world driving dataset consisting of 1,388 interactions and sensor data from 29 drivers who interacted with AI conversational agents. Machine learning analysis based on the dataset demonstrated that the opportune moments for driver interruption could be correctly inferred with 87% accuracy. The safety enhancement technology developed by the team is expected to minimize driver distractions caused by in-vehicle conversation services. This technology can be directly applied to current in-vehicle systems that provide conversation services. It can also be extended and applied to the real-time detection of driver distraction problems caused by the use of a smartphone while driving. Professor Lee said, “In the near future, cars will proactively deliver various in-vehicle conversation services. This technology will certainly help vehicles interact with their drivers safely as it can fairly accurately determine when to provide conversation services using only basic sensor data generated by cars.” The researchers presented their findings at the ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp’19) in London, UK. This research was supported in part by Hyundai NGV and by the Next-Generation Information Computing Development Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT. (Figure: Visual description of safe enhancement technology for in-vehicle conversation services)
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