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New Material for Generating Energy-Efficient Spin Currents
(Professor Byong-Guk Park (left) and Professor Kab-Jin Kim) Magnetic random access memory (MRAM) is emerging as next-generation memory. It allows information to be kept even without an external power supply and its unique blend of high density and high speed operation is driving global semiconductor manufacturers to develop new versions continuously. A KAIST team, led by Professor Byong-Guk Park in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor Kab-Jin Kim in the Department of Physics, recently has developed a new material which enables the efficient generation of a spin current, the core part of operating MRAM. This new material consisting of ferromagnet-transition metal bilayers can randomly control the direction of the generated spin current unlike the existing ones. They also described a mechanism for spin-current generation at the interface between the bottom ferromagnetic layer and the non-magnetic spacer layer, which gives torques on the top magnetic layer that are consistent with the measured magnetization dependence. When applying this to spin-orbit torque magnetic memory, it shows the increased efficiency of spin torque and generation of the spin current without an external magnetic field. High-speed operation, the distinct feature of spin-orbit torque-based MRAM that carries its non-volatility, can significantly reduce the standby power better than SRAM. This new material will expect to speed up the commercialization of MRAM. The research team said that this magnetic memory will further be applied to mobile, wearable, and IoT devices. This study, conducted in collaboration with Professor Kyung-Jin Lee from Korea University and Dr. Mark Stiles from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US, was featured in Nature Materials in March. The research was funded by the Creative Materials Discovery Program of the Ministry of Science and ICT. (Figure: Ferromagnet-transition metal bilayers which can randomly control the direction of the generated spin current)
KAIST Develops Ultrathin Polymer Insulators Key to Low-Power Soft Electronics
Using an initiated chemical vapor deposition technique, the research team created an ultrathin polymeric insulating layer essential in realizing transistors with flexibility and low power consumption. This advance is expected to accelerate the commercialization of wearable and soft electronics. A group of researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) developed a high-performance ultrathin polymeric insulator for field-effect transistors (FETs). The researchers used vaporized monomers to form polymeric films grown conformally on various surfaces including plastics to produce a versatile insulator that meets a wide range of requirements for next-generation electronic devices. Their research results were published online in Nature Materials on March 9th, 2015. FETs are an essential component for any modern electronic device used in our daily life from cell phones and computers, to flat-panel displays. Along with three electrodes (gate, source, and drain), FETs consist of an insulating layer and a semiconductor channel layer. The insulator in FETs plays an important role in controlling the conductance of the semiconductor channel and thus current flow within the translators. For reliable and low-power operation of FETs, electrically robust, ultrathin insulators are essential. Conventionally, such insulators are made of inorganic materials (e.g., oxides and nitrides) built on a hard surface such as silicon or glass due to their excellent insulating performance and reliability. However, these insulators were difficult to implement into soft electronics due to their rigidity and high process temperature. In recent years, many researchers have studied polymers as promising insulating materials that are compatible with soft unconventional substrates and emerging semiconductor materials. The traditional technique employed in developing a polymer insulator, however, had the limitations of low surface coverage at ultra-low thickness, hindering FETs adopting polymeric insulators from operating at low voltage. A KAIST research team led by Professor Sung Gap Im of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department and Professor Seunghyup Yoo and Professor Byung Jin Cho of the Electrical Engineering Department developed an insulating layer of organic polymers, “pV3D3,” that can be greatly scaled down, without losing its ideal insulating properties, to a thickness of less than 10 nanometers (nm) using the all-dry vapor-phase technique called the “initiated chemical vapor deposition (iCVD).” The iCVD process allows gaseous monomers and initiators to react with each other in a low vacuum condition, and as a result, conformal polymeric films with excellent insulating properties are deposited on a substrate. Unlike the traditional technique, the surface-growing character of iCVD can overcome the problems associated with surface tension and produce highly uniform and pure ultrathin polymeric films over a large area with virtually no surface or substrate limitations. Furthermore, most iCVD polymers are created at room temperature, which lessens the strain exerted upon and damage done to the substrates. With the pV3D3 insulator, the research team built low-power, high-performance FETs based on various semiconductor materials such as organics, graphene, and oxides, demonstrating the pV3D3 insulator’s wide range of material compatibility. They also manufactured a stick-on, removable electronic component using conventional packaging tape as a substrate. In collaboration with Professor Yong-Young Noh from Dongguk University in Korea, the team successfully developed a transistor array on a large-scale flexible substrate with the pV3D3 insulator. Professor Im said, “The down-scalability and wide range of compatibility observed with iCVD-grown pV3D3 are unprecedented for polymeric insulators. Our iCVD pV3D3 polymeric films showed an insulating performance comparable to that of inorganic insulating layers, even when their thickness were scaled down to sub-10 nm. We expect our development will greatly benefit flexible or soft electronics, which will play a key role in the success of emerging electronic devices such as wearable computers.” The title of the research paper is “Synthesis of ultrathin polymer insulating layers by initiated chemical vapor deposition for low-power soft electronics” (Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number is 10.1038/nmat4237). Picture 1: A schematic image to show how the initiated chemical vapor deposition (iCVD) technique produces pV3D3 polymeric films: (i) introduction of vaporized monomers and initiators, (ii) activation of initiators to thermally dissociate into radicals, (iii) adsorption of monomers and initiator radicals onto a substrate, and (iv) transformation of free-radical polymerization into pV3D3 thin films. Picture 2: This is a transistor array fabricated on a large scale, highly flexible substrate with pV3D3 polymeric films. Picture 3: This photograph shows an electronic component fabricated on a conventional packaging tape, which is attachable or detachable, with pV3D3 polymeric films embedded.
Professor Sang-Ouk Kim Publishes Review Article in the Journal of "Nature Materials"
Nature Materials, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Nature Publishing Group, covers a range of topics within materials science from materials engineering and structural materials. The journal invited Professor Sang-Ouk Kim of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST to contribute to the April issue of 2014. Professor Kim, together with his doctoral student, Ju-Young Kim, wrote a review article in the “News and Views” section of the journal, which was entitled “Liquid Crystals: Electric Fields Line Up Graphene Oxide.” The News and Views is a peer-reviewed section where an academic authority in a particular field reviews and evaluates papers published in the journal. In the article, Professor Kim reviewed a paper written by Jang-Kun Song et al. and highlighted important research outcomes such as the efficient electric field switching of graphene oxide (GO) liquid-crystals in low-concentration dispersions and the demonstration of a prototype of a GO liquid-crystal display. This technology could lead the development of a flexible display. Professor Kim is an eminent scholar who has reported for the first time in the world on the solvent-based graphene oxide liquid crystals formation in 2011. For the article, please go to: http://www.kaist.ac.kr/_prog/download.php?filename=Nature_Materials_Professor_Sang-Ouk_Kim_Apr_2014.pdf
A research paper by Professor Myung-Chul Choi reviewed in Science (February 28, 2014)
A research paper entitled “Transformation of taxol-stabilized microtubules into inverted tubulin tubules triggered by a tubulin conformation switch” was published in Nature Materials this year, dated January 19, 2014. Professor Myung-Chul Choi and Dr. Chae-Yeon Song from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering at KAIST co-authored the paper together with researchers from the University of California in Santa Barbara and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Science, dated February 28, 2014, has recently reviewed the paper in its section called "Perspectives."
A Molecular Switch Controlling Self-Assembly of Protein Nanotubes Discovered
International collaborative research among South Korea, United States, and Israel research institutionsThe key to the treatment of cancer and brain disease mechanism The molecular switch that controls the self-assembly structure of the protein nanotubes, which plays crucial role in cell division and intracellular transport of materials, has been discovered. KAIST Bio and Brain Engineering Department’s Professor Myeong-Cheol Choi and Professor Chae-Yeon Song conducted the research, in collaboration with the University of California in Santa Barbara, U.S., and Hebrew University in Israel. The findings of the research were published in Nature Materials on the 19th. Microtubules are tube shaped and composed of protein that plays a key role in cell division, cytoskeleton, and intercellular material transport and is only 25nm in diameter (1/100,000 thickness of a human hair). Conventionally, cancer treatment focused on disrupting the formation of microtubules to suppress the division of cancer cells. In addition Alzheimer’s is known to be caused by the diminishing of structural integrity of microtubules responsible for intercellular material transport which leads to failure in signal transfer. The research team utilized synchrotron x-ray scattering and transmission electron microscope to analyze the self assemble structure of protein nanotubes to subnanometer accuracy. As a result, the microtubules were found to assemble into 25nm thickness tubules by stacking protein blocks 4 x 5 x 8nm in dimension. In the process, the research team discovered the molecular switch that controls the shape of these protein blocks. In addition the research team was successful in creating a new protein tube structure. Professor Choi commented that they were successful in introducing a new paradigm that suggests the possibility of controlling the complex biological functions of human’s biological system with the simple use of physical principles. He commented further that it is anticipated that the findings will allow for the application of bio nanotubes in engineering and that this is a small step in finding the mechanism behind cancer treatment and neural diseases.
The control of light at the nano-level
Professor Min Bumki Professor Min Bumki’s research team from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at KAIST have successfully gained control of the transmittance of light in optical devices using graphene* and artificial 2-dimensional metamaterials**. * Graphene : a thin membrane composed of pure carbon, with atoms arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern ** Metamaterials : artificial materials engineered to have properties that may not be found in nature The research results were published in the recent online edition (September 30th) of Nature Materials, a sister journal of the world renowned Nature journal, under the title ‘Terahertz waves with gate-controlled active graphene metamaterials’ Since the discovery of graphene in 2004 by Professors Novoselov and Geim from the University of Manchester (2010 Nobel Prize winners in Physics), it has been dubbed “the dream material” because of its outstanding physical properties. Graphene has been especially praised for its ability to absorb approximately 2.3% of near infrared and visible rays due to its characteristic electron structure. This property allows graphene to be used as a transparent electrode, which is a vital electrical component used in touch screens and solar batteries. However, graphene’s optical transmittance was largely ignored by researchers due to its limited control using electrical methods and its small optical modulation in data transfer. Professor Min’s team combined 0.34 nanometer-thick graphene with metamaterials to allow a more effective control of light transmittance and greater optical modulation. This graphene metamaterial can be integrated in to a thin and flexible macromolecule substrate which allows the control of transmittance using electric signals. This research experimentally showed that graphene metamaterials can not only effective control optical transmittance, but can also be used in graphene optical memory devices using electrical hysteresis. Professor Min said that “this research allows the effective control of light at the nanometer level” and that “this research will help in the development of microscopic optical modulators or memory disks”. figure 1. The working drawing of graphene metamaterials figure 2. Conceptual diagram (Left) and microscopic photo (right) of graphene metamaterials
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