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New LSB with Theoretical Capacity over 90%
(Professor Hee-Tak Kim and Hyunwon Chu) A KAIST research team has developed a lithium sulfur battery (LSB) that realizes 92% of the theoretical capacity and an areal capacity of 4mAh/cm2. LSBs are gaining a great deal of attention as an alternative for lithium ion batteries (LIBs) because they have a theoretical energy density up to six to seven times higher than that of LIBs, and can be manufactured in a more cost-effective way. However, LSBs face the obstacle of having a capacity reaching its theoretical maximum because they are prone to uncontrolled growth of lithium sulfide on the electrodes, which leads to blocking electron transfer. To address the problem of electrode passivation, researchers introduced additional conductive agent into the electrode; however, it drastically lowered the energy density of LSBs, making it difficult to exceed 70% of the theoretical capacity. Professor Hee-Tak Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and his team replaced the lithium salt anions used in conventional LSB electrolytes with anions with a high donor number. The team successfully induced the three-dimensional growth of lithium sulfide on electrode surfaces and efficiently delayed the electrode passivation. Based on this electrolyte design, the research team achieved 92% of the theoretical capacity with their high-capacity sulfur electrode (4mAh/cm2), which is equivalent to that of conventional LIB cathode. Furthermore, they were able to form a stable passivation film on the surface of the lithium anode and exhibited stable operation over 100 cycles. This technology, which can be flexibly used with various types of sulfur electrodes, can mark a new milestone in the battery industry. Professor Kim said, “We proposed a new physiochemical principle to overcome the limitations of conventional LSBs. I believe our achievement of obtaining 90% of the LBSs’ theoretical capacity without any capacity loss after 100 cycles will become a new milestone.” This research, first-authored by Hyunwon Chu and Hyungjun Noh, was published in Nature Communications on January 14, 2019. It was also selected in the editor’s highlight for its outstanding achievements. Figure 1. Lithium sulfur growth and its deposition mechanism for different sulfide growth behaviors Figure 2. Capacity and cycle life characteristics of the LSBs
Noninvasive Light-Sensitive Recombinase for Deep Brain Genetic Manipulation
A KAIST team presented a noninvasive light-sensitive photoactivatable recombinase suitable for genetic manipulation in vivo. The highly light-sensitive property of photoactivatable Flp recombinase will be ideal for controlling genetic manipulation in deep mouse brain regions by illumination with a noninvasive light-emitting diode. This easy-to-use optogenetic module made by Professor Won Do Heo and his team will provide a side-effect free and expandable genetic manipulation tool for neuroscience research. Spatiotemporal control of gene expression has been acclaimed as a valuable strategy for identifying functions of genes with complex neural circuits. Studies of complex brain functions require highly sophisticated and robust technologies that enable specific labeling and rapid genetic modification in live animals. A number of approaches for controlling the activity of proteins or expression of genes in a spatiotemporal manner using light, small molecules, hormones, and peptides have been developed for manipulating intact circuits or functions. Among them, recombination-employing, chemically inducible systems are the most commonly used in vivo gene-modification systems. Other approaches include selective or conditional Cre-activation systems within subsets of green fluorescent protein-expressing cells or dual-promoter-driven intersectional populations of cells. However, these methods are limited by the considerable time and effort required to establish knock-in mouse lines and by constraints on spatiotemporal control, which relies on a limited set of available genetic promoters and transgenic mouse resources. Beyond these constraints, optogenetic approaches allow the activity of genetically defined neurons in the mouse brain to be controlled with high spatiotemporal resolution. However, an optogenetic module for gene-manipulation capable of revealing the spatiotemporal functions of specific target genes in the mouse brain has remained a challenge. In the study published at Nature Communication on Jan. 18, the team featured photoactivatable Flp recombinase by searching out split sites of Flp recombinase that were not previously identified, being capable of reconstitution to be active. The team validated the highly light-sensitive, efficient performance of photoactivatable Flp recombinase through precise light targeting by showing transgene expression within anatomically confined mouse brain regions. The concept of local genetic labeling presented here suggests a new approach for genetically identifying subpopulations of cells defined by the spatial and temporal characteristics of light delivery. To date, an optogenetic module for gene-manipulation capable of revealing spatiotemporal functions of specific target genes in the mouse brain has remained out of reach and no such light-inducible Flp system has been developed. Accordingly, the team sought to develop a photoactivatable Flp recombinase that takes full advantage of the high spatiotemporal control offered by light stimulation. This activation through noninvasive light illumination deep inside the brain is advantageous in that it avoids chemical or optic fiber implantation-mediated side effects, such as off-target cytotoxicity or physical lesions that might influence animal physiology or behaviors. The technique provides expandable utilities for transgene expression systems upon Flp recombinase activity in vivo, by designing a viral vector for minimal leaky expression influenced by viral nascent promoters. The team demonstrated the utility of PA-Flp as a noninvasive in vivo optogenetic manipulation tool for use in the mouse brain, even applicable for deep brain structures as it can reach the hippocampus or medial septum using external LED light illumination. The study is the result of five years of research by Professor Heo, who has led the bio-imaging and optogenetics fields by developing his own bio-imaging and optogenetics technologies. “It will be a great advantage to control specific gene expression desired by LEDs with little physical and chemical stimulation that can affect the physiological phenomenon in living animals,” he explained.
Technology to Control Near-Field Thermal Radiation
(from left clockwise: Professor Seung Seob Lee, Professor Bong Jae Lee, PhD Mikyung Lim and PhD candidate Jaeman Song) A KAIST research team succeeded in measuring and controlling the near-field thermal radiation between metallo-dielectric (MD) multilayer structures. Their thermal radiation control technology can be applied to next-generation semiconductor packaging, thermophotovoltaic cells and thermal management systems. It also has the potential to be applied to a sustainable energy source for IoT sensors. In the nanoscale gaps, thermal radiation between objects increases greatly with closer distances. The amount of heat transfer in this scale was found to be from 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than the blackbody radiation heat transfer, which was once considered the theoretical maximum for the rate of thermal radiation. This phenomenon is called near-field thermal radiation. With recent developments in nanotechnology, research into near-field thermal radiation between various materials has been actively carried out. Surface polariton coupling generated from nanostructures has been of particular interest because it enhances the amount of near-field thermal radiation between two objects, and allows the spectral control of near-field thermal radiation. This advantage has motivated much of the recent theoretical research on the application of near-field thermal radiation using nanostructures, such as thin films, multilayer nanostructures, and nanowires. Nevertheless, thus far, most of the studies have focused on measuring near-field thermal radiation between isotropic materials. A joint team led by Professor Bong Jae Lee and Professor Seung Seob Lee from the Department of Mechanical Engineering succeeded in measuring near-field thermal radiation according to the vacuum distance between MD multilayer nanostructures by using a custom MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems)-device-integrated platform with three-axis nanopositioner. MD multilayer nanostructures refer to structures in which metal and dielectric layers with regular thickness alternate. The MD single-layer pair is referred to as a unit cell, and the ratio of the thickness occupied by the metal layer in the unit cell is called the fill factor. By measuring the near-field thermal radiation with a varying number of unit cells and the fill factor of the multilayer nanostructures, the team demonstrated that the surface plasmon polariton coupling enhances near-field thermal radiation greatly, and allows spectral control over the heat transfer. Professor B. J. Lee said, “The isotropic materials that have so far been studied experimentally had limited spectral control over the near-field thermal radiation. Our near-field thermal radiation control technology using multilayer nanostructures is expected to become the first step toward developing various near-field thermal radiation applications.” This research, led by PhD Mikyung Lim and PhD candidate Jaeman Song, was published in Nature Communications on October 16. Figure 1. Experimental setup for measuring near-field thermal radiation between MD multilayers Figure 2. Investigation of manipulated near-field heat flux by modifying the surface conditions with MD multilayers
From Concept to Reality: Changing Color of Light Using a Spatiotemporal Boundary
(from left: Professor Bumki Min, PhD candidate Jaehyeon Son and PhD Kanghee Lee) A KAIST team developed an optical technique to change the color (frequency) of light using a spatiotemporal boundary. The research focuses on realizing a spatiotemporal boundary with a much higher degree of freedom than the results of previous studies by fabricating a thin metal structure on a semiconductor surface. Such a spatiotemporal boundary is expected to be applicable to an ultra-thin film type optical device capable of changing the color of light. The optical frequency conversion device plays a key role in precision measurement and communication technology, and the device has been developed mainly based on optical nonlinearity. If the intensity of light is very strong, the optical medium responds nonlinearly so the nonlinear optical phenomena, such as frequency doubling or frequency mixing, can be observed. Such optical nonlinear phenomena are realized usually by the interaction between a high-intensity laser and a nonlinear medium. As an alternative method frequency conversion is observed by temporally modifying the optical properties of the medium through which light travels using an external stimulus. Since frequency conversion in this way can be observed even in weak light, such a technique could be particularly useful in communication technology. However, rapid optical property modification of the medium by an external stimulus and subsequent light frequency conversion techniques have been researched only in the pertubative regime, and it has been difficult to realize these theoretical results in practical applications. To realize such a conceptual idea, Professor Bumki Min from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and his team collaborated with Professor Wonju Jeon from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Fabian Rotermund from the Department of Physics. They developed an artificial optical material (metamaterial) by arranging a metal microstructure that mimics an atomic structure and succeeded in creating a spatiotemporal boundary by changing the optical property of the artificial material abruptly. While previous studies only slightly modified the refractive index of the medium, this study provided a spatiotemporal boundary as a platform for freely designing and changing the spectral properties of the medium. Using this, the research team developed a device that can control the frequency of light to a large degree. The research team said a spatiotemporal boundary, which was only conceptually considered in previous research and realized in the pertubative regime, was developed as a step that can be realized and applied. Professor Min said, “The frequency conversion of light becomes designable and predictable, so our research could be applied in many optical applications. This research will present a new direction for time-variant media research projects in the field of optics.” This research, led by PhD Kanghee Lee and PhD candidate Jaehyeon Son, was published online in Nature Photonics on October 8, 2018. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) through the government of Korea. The work was also supported by the Center for Advanced Meta-Materials (CAMM) funded by the Korea Government (MSIP) as the Global Frontier Project (NRF-2014M3A6B3063709). Figure 1. The frequency conversion process of light using a spatiotemporal boundary. Figure 2. The complex amplitude of light at the converted frequency with the variation of a spatiotemporal boundary.
Lens-free OLEDs with Efficiency comparable to that of Inorganic LEDs
(from left: Professor Seunghyup Yoo and PhD candidate Jinouk Song) The use of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) has extended to various applications, but their efficiency is still lagging behind inorganic light-emitting diodes. In this research, a KAIST team provided a systematic way to yield OLEDs with an external quantum efficiency (EQE) greater than 50% with an external scattering medium. Having properties suitable for thin and flexible devices, OLEDs are popular light sources for displays, such as mobile devices and high quality TVs. In recent years, numerous efforts have been made to apply OLEDs in lighting as well as light sources for vehicles. For such applications, high efficiency is of the upmost importance for the successful deployment of light sources. Thanks to continuous research and the development of OLEDs, their efficiency is steadily on the rise, and a level equivalent to inorganic LEDs has been demonstrated in some reports. However, these highly efficient OLEDs were often achieved with a macroscopic lens or complex internal nanostructures, which undermines the key advantages of OLEDs as an affordable planar light sources and tends to hinder their stable operation, thus putting a limitation to their commercialization. Among various methods proven effective for OLED light extraction, a team led by Professor Seunghyup Yoo at the School of Electrical Engineering focused on the external scattering-based approach, as it can maintain planar geometry and compatibility with flexibility. It is also able to be fabricated on a large scale at a low cost and causes no interference with electrical properties of OLEDs. Conventionally, research on enhancing OLED light extraction using light scattering has been conducted empirically in many cases. This time, the team developed comprehensive and analytical methodology to theoretically predict structures that maximize efficiency. Considering OLEDs with the external scattering layers as a whole rather than two separate entities, the researchers combined the mathematical description of the scattering phenomena with the optical model for light emission within an OLED to rapidly predict the characteristics of many devices with various structures. Based on this approach, the team theoretically predicted the optimal combination of scattering layers and OLED architectures that can lead to the maximum efficiency. Following this theoretical prediction, the team experimentally produced the optimal light scattering film and incorporated it to OLEDs with orange emitters having a high degree of horizontal dipole orientation. As a result, the team successfully realized OLEDs exhibiting EQE of 56% and power efficiency of 221 lm/W. This is one of the highest efficiencies ever realized for an OLED unit device without the help of a macroscopic lens or internal light extraction structures. Professor Yoo said, “There are various technologies developed for improving OLED light extraction efficiency; nevertheless, most of them have not reached a level of practical use. This research mainly provides a systematic way to attain an EQE of 50% or higher in OLEDs while keeping in mind the constraints for commercialization. The approach shown here can readily be applied to lighting devices or sensors of wearable devices.”. This research, co-led by Professor Jang-Joo Kim from Seoul National University and Professor Yun-Hi Kim from Gyeongsang National University, was published in Nature Communications on August 10, 2018. (J. Song et al. Nature Communications, 9, 3207. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05671-x) Figure 1.Photographs of OLEDs with SiO₂ -embedded scattering layers according to scatterance
Trigger of the Hyperactivation of Fibrosis Identified
(Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering) Scientists have been investigating the negative effects that the hyperactivation of fibrosis has on fibrotic diseases and cancer. A KAIST research team unveiled a positive feedback loop that bi-stably activates fibroblasts in collaboration with Samsung Medical Center. This finding will contribute to developing therapeutic targets for both fibrosis and cancer. Human fibroblasts are dormant in normal tissue, but show radical activation during wound healing. However, the principle that induces their explosive activation has not yet been identified. Here, Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering, in collaboration with Professor Seok-Hyung Kim from Samsung Medical Center, discovered the principle of a circuit that continuously activates fibroblasts. They constructed a positive feedback loops (PFLs) where Twist1, Prrx1, and Tenascin-C (TNC) molecules consecutively activate fibroblasts. They confirmed that these are the main inducers of fibroblast activation by conducting various experiments, including molecular biological tests, mathematical modeling, animal testing, and computer simulations to conclude that they are the main inducers of fibroblast activation. According to their research, Twist 1 is a key regulator of cancer-associated fibroblasts, which directly upregulates Prrx1 and then triggers TNC, which also increases Twist1 expression. This circuit consequently forms a Twist-Prrx1-TNC positive feedback loop. Activated fibroblasts need to be deactivated after wounds are healed. However, if the PFLs continue, the fibroblasts become the major cause of worsening fibrotic diseases and cancers. Therefore, the team expects that Twist1-Prrx1-TNC positive PFLs will be applied for novel and effective therapeutic targeting of fibrotic diseases and cancers. This research was published in Nature Communications on August 1, 2018. Figure 1. Twist1 increases tenascin-c expression in cancer-associated fibroblasts. Twist1 is a potent but indirect inducer of tenascin-c (TNC), which is essential for maintaining Twist1 expression in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Figure 2. Summary of the study. The Twist1-Prrx1-TNC positive feedback regulation provides clues for understanding the activation of fibroblasts during wound healing under normal conditions, as well as abnormally activated fibroblasts in pathological conditions such as cancerous and fibrotic diseases. Under normal conditions, the PFL acts as a reversible bistable switch by which the activation of fibroblasts is “ON" above a sufficient level of stimulation and “OFF" for the withdrawal of the stimulus. However, this switch can be permanently turned on under pathologic conditions by continued activation of the PFL, resulting in sustained proliferation of fibroblasts.
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