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Novel Material Properties of Hybrid Perovskite Nanostructures for Next-generation Non-linear Electronic Devices
(from left: Juho Lee, Dr. Muhammad Ejaz Khan and Professor Yong-Hoon Kim) A KAIST research team reported a novel non-linear device with the founding property coming from perovskite nanowires. They showed that hybrid perovskite-derived, inorganic-framework nanowires can acquire semi-metallicity, and proposed negative differential resistance (NDR) devices with excellent NDR characteristics that resulted from a novel quantum-hybridization NDR mechanism, implying the potential of perovskite nanowires to be realized in next-generation electronic devices. Organic-inorganic hybrid halide perovskites have recently emerged as prominent candidates for photonic applications due to their excellent optoelectronic properties as well as their low cost and facile synthesis processes. Prominent progresses have been already made for devices including solar cells, light-emitting diodes, lasers and photodetectors. However, research on electronic devices based on hybrid halide perovskites has not been actively pursued compared with their photonic device counterparts. Professor Yong-Hoon Kim from the School of Electrical Engineering and his team took a closer look at low-dimensional organic-inorganic halide perovskite materials, which have enhanced quantum confinement effects, and particularly focused on the recently synthesized trimethylsulfonium (TMS) lead triiodide (CH3)3SPbI3. Using supercomputer simulations, the team first showed that stripping the (CH3)3S or TMS organic ligands from the TMS PbI3 perovskite nanowires results in semi-metallic PbI3 columns, which contradicts the conventional assumption of the semiconducting or insulating characteristics of the inorganic perovskite framework. Utilizing the semi-metallic PbI3 inorganic framework as the electrode, the team designed a tunneling junction device from perovskite nanowires and found that they exhibit excellent nonlinear negative differential resistance (NDR) behavior. The NDR property is a key to realizing next-generation, ultra-low-power, and multivalued non-linear devices. Furthermore, the team found that this NDR originates from a novel mechanism that involves the quantum-mechanical hybridization between channel and electrode states. Professor Kim said, “This research demonstrates the potential of quantum mechanics-based computer simulations to lead developments in advanced nanomaterials and nanodevices. In particular, this research proposes a new direction in the development of a quantum mechanical tunneling device, which was the topic for which the Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1973 was awarded to Dr. Leo Esaki. This research, led by Dr. Muhammad Ejaz Khan and PhD candidate Juho Lee, was published online in Advanced Functional Materials (10.1002/adfm.201807620) on January 7, 2019. Figure. The draft version of the cover page of 'Advanced Functional Materials'
Hierarchical Porous Titanium Nitride Synthesized by Multiscale Phase Separation for LSBs
(from left: Professor Jinwoo Lee and PhD candidate Won-Gwang Lim) A KAIST research team developed ultra-stable, high-rate lithium-sulfur batteries (LSBs) by using hierarchical porous titanium nitride as a sulfur host, and achieved superior cycle stability and high rate performance for LSBs. The control of large amounts of energy is required for use in an electric vehicle or smart grid system. In this sense, the development of next-generation secondary batteries is in high demand. Theoretically, LSBs have an energy density seven times higher than commercial lithium ion batteries (LIBs). Also, their production cost can be reduced dramatically since sulfur can be obtained at a low price. Despite these positive aspects, there have been several issues impeding the commercialization of LSBs, such as the low electric conductivity of sulfur, the dissolution of active materials during operation, and sluggish conversion reactions. These issues decrease the cycle stability and rate capability of batteries. To tackle those issues, Professor Jinwoo Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and his team synthesized a well-developed hierarchical macro/mesoporous titanium nitride as a host material for sulfur. The titanium nitride has a high chemical affinity for sulfur and high electrical conductivity. As a result, it prevents the dissolution of active materials and facilitates the charge transfer. Moreover, the synergistic effect of macropore and mesopore structures allows the stable accommodation of large amounts of sulfur and facilitates the electrolyte penetration. Previously reported polar inorganic materials have a high affinity for sulfur, but it was challenging to control the porous architecture suitable to the sulfur host. This work breaks such limitations by developing a synthetic route to easily control the porous architecture of inorganic materials, which led to obtaining superior cycle stability and high rate capabilities. Professor Lee said, “Some problems still remain in commercializing LSBs as next-generation batteries. Hence, there should be a continued research on this matter to solve the issues. Through this research, we secured a key technology for ultrastable, high-rate LSBs.” This research was led by PhD candidate Won-Gwang Lim and collaborated on by Jeong Woo Han from POSTECH. It was chosen as the cover article of Advanced Materials on January 15, 2019. Figure 1. Schematic illustration for the synthetic route of co-continuous h-TiN Figure 2. The hierarchical multiscale porous structure is still retained without any collapse after the conversion to h-TiN. The good retention of the porous structure is attributed to the thick pore wall of the h-TiO₂derived from the block copolymer self-assembly Figure 3. The cover page of Advanced Materials
Highly Scalable Process to Obtain Stable 2D Nanosheet Dispersion
(Professor Do Hyun Kim and his team) A KAIST team developed technology that allows the mass production of two-dimensional (2D) nanomaterial dispersion by utilizing the characteristic shearing force of hydraulic power. The 2D nanosheet dispersion can be directly applied to solution-based processes to manufacture devices for electronics as well as energy storage and conversion. It is expected to be used in these devices with improved performance. There have been numerous researches on the mass production of various 2D nanomaterial because they show outstanding physical and chemical characteristics when they are truly 2D. With strong mechanical force or chemical reaction only, each existing exfoliation method has its limitation to make 2D material when the scale of manufacturing increases. They also face the issues of high cost and long process time. Moreover, 2D nanosheets by the exfoliation have the tendency of agglomeration due to the surface energy. Usually, organic solvent or surfactant is required to obtain high yield and concentration of 2D material by minimizing agglomeration. After several years of research, Professor Do Hyun Kim in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and his team verified that optimized shearing in their reactor provided the highest efficiency for the exfoliation of nanomaterial. For the increased reactor capacity, they selected a flow and a dispersive agent to develop a high-speed, mass-production process to get 2D nanosheets by physical exfoliation with an aqueous solution. The team proposed a flow reactor based on Taylor-Couette flow, which has the advantage of high shear rate and mixing efficiency even under large reactor capacity. In this research, Professor Young-Kyu Han at Dongguk University-Seoul carried out the Ab initio calculation to select the dispersive agent. According to his calculation, an ionic liquid can stabilize and disperse 2D nanomaterial even in a small concentration. This calculation could maximize the exfoliating efficiency. Professor Bong Gill Choi at Kangwon National University carried out the evaluation of device made of resulting dispersion. The team used a membrane filtration process to make a flexible and highly conductive film of 2D material. The film was then applied to produce an electrode for the supercapacitor device with very high capacity per volume. They also confirmed its stability in their supercapacitor device. Additionally, they applied dispersive nanomaterials including graphene, molybdenum disulfide (MoS₂), and boron nitride (BN) to inkjet printer ink and realized micrometer-thick nanomaterial patterns on A4 paper. The graphene ink showed no loss of electrical property after printing without additional heat treatment. Professor Kim said, “This new technology for the high-speed mass production of nanomaterials can easily be applied to various 2D nanomaterials. It will accelerate the production of highly efficient devices for optoelectronics, biosensors, and energy storage/conversion units with low cost.” This research, led by Dr. Jae-Min Jeong, was published in Advanced Functional Materials on August 12. Figure 1. The cover page of Advanced Functional Materials
Characteristics of Submesoscale Geophysical Turbulence Reported
A KAIST research team has reported some of unique characteristics and driving forces behind submesoscale geophysical turbulence. Using big data analysis on ocean surface currents and chlorophyll concentrations observed using coastal radars and satellites has brought better understanding of oceanic processes in space and time scales of O(1) kilometer and O(1) hour. The outcomes of this work will lead to improved tracking of water-borne materials and performance in global and regional climate prediction models. In 2012, United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released a movie clip called “Perpetual Oceans”, which visualized ocean circulation obtained from satellite altimeter-derived sea surface height observations over two and a half years. When the movie was released to the public, it received a great deal of attention because the circulation patterns were strikingly similar to “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh. “Perpetual Oceans” is full of vortical flow patterns describing the oceanic turbulent motions at mesoscale (a scale of 100 km or larger). Meanwhile, Professor Sung Yong Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and his team focused on the study of the oceanic turbulence at sub-mesoscale (space and time scales of 1 to 100 km and hours). Sub-mesoscale processes are important because they contribute to the vertical transport of oceanic tracers, mass, buoyancy, and nutrients and rectify both the mixed layer structure and upper ocean stratification. These process studies have been primarily based on numerical simulations because traditional in situ ocean measurements can be limited in their capability to resolve the detailed horizontal and vertical structures of these processes. The team conducted big data analysis on hourly observations of one-year ocean surface current maps and five-year chlorophyll concentration maps, obtained from remote sensing instruments such as coastal high-frequency radars (HFRs) and geostationary ocean color imagery (GOCI) to examine the unique characteristics of oceanic submesoscale processes. The team analyzed the slope change of the wavenumber energy spectra of the observations in terms of season and sampling directions. Through the analysis, the team proved that energy cascade (a phenomenon in which large-scale energy transfers to small-scale energy or vice-versa during the turbulent energy transit) occurs in the spatial scale of 10 km in the forward and inverse directions. This is driven by baroclinic instability as opposed to the mesoscale eddy-driven frontogenesis at the O(100) km scale based on the observed regional submesoscale circulations. This work will contribute to the parameterization of physical phenomenon of sub-mesoscale in the field of global high-resolution modeling within ocean physics and atmospheric as well as climate change. Based on the understanding of the principle of sub-mesoscale surface circulation, practical applications can be further derived for radioactivity, oil spill recovery, and marine pollutant tracking. Moreover, the data used in this research was based on long-term observations on sub-mesoscale surface currents and concentrations of chlorophyll, which may reflect the submesoscale processes actively generated in the subpolar front off the east coast of Korea. Hence, this study can potentially be beneficial for integrated big data analyses using high-resolution coastal radar-derived surface currents and satellite-derived products and motivate interdisciplinary research between ocean physics and biology. This research was published as two companion papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans on August 6, 2018. (doi:10.1002/2016JC012517; doi:10.1002/2017JC013732) Figure 1.'The Starry Night' of Van Gogh and the 'Perpetual Ocean' created by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Figure 2. A schematic diagram of the energy cascades in forward and backward directions and the spatial scale where the energy is injected. Figure 3. A snapshot of the chlorophyll concentration map derived from geostationary ocean color imagery (GOCI) off the east coast of Korea presenting several examples of sub-mesoscale turbulent flows. Figure 4. Energy spectra of the HFR-derived surface currents and GOCI-derived chlorophyll concentrations and the temporal variability of spectral decay slopes in the cross-shore and along-shore directions.
Silk Adhesive Paves the Way for Epidermal Electronics
(from left: Dr. Ji-Won Seo, Professor Hyunjoo Jenny Lee and PhD candidate, Hyojung Kim) Producing effective epidermal electronics requires a strong, biocompatible interface between a biological surface and a sensor. Here, a KAIST team employed a calcium-modified silk fibroin as a biocompatible and strong adhesive. This technology led to the development of epidermal electronics with strong adhesion for patients who need drug injections and physiological monitoring over a long time. Recently, biocompatible silk fibroins has been increasingly used for flexible substrates and water-soluble sacrificial layers because they allow structural modifications and are biodegradable. From previous studies, the team discovered the adhesive properties of silk fibroin via metal chelate bonding and the water-capturing of Ca ions. Professor Hyunjoo Jenny Lee from the School of Electrical Engineering and her team explored ways to develop reusable, water-degradable, biocompatible and conductive epidermal electronics that can be attached to the human skin for long-term use. To overcome the limitations of conventional silk fibroin, the team introduced Ca ions to modify silk fibroin into a strong and biocompatible adhesive. Calcium ions adopted in silk fibroins serve to capture water and enhance the cohesion force through metal chelation. Therefore, this endows viscoelasticity to previously a firm silk fibroin. This modified silk fibroin exhibits strong viscoelasticity and strong adhesiveness when physically attached to the human skin and various polymer substrates. Their developed silk adhesive is reusable, water-degradable, biocompatible, and conductive. To test the effectiveness, the team employed the silk adhesive to fabricate an epidermal capacitive touch sensor that can be attached to the human skin. They verified the reusability of the sensor by performing attachment and detachment tests. They also confirmed that the physical adhesion of the Ca-modified silk facilitates its reusability and possesses high peel strength. Furthermore, they tested the stretchability of the silk adhesive on bladder tissue. Although it is not an epidermal skin, bladder tissue is highly stretchable. Hence, it is a perfect target to measure the resistance-strain characteristic of the silk adhesive. When the bladder tissue was stretched, the resistive strain epidermal sensor corresponded to the tensile strain. Showing high biocompatibility, the silk adhesive is suitable for interfacing with the human skin for a long period of time. Therefore, it can also be applied to a drug delivery epidermal system as well as an electrocardiogram (ECG) epidermal sensor. Professor Lee said, “We are opening up a novel use for silk by developing reusable and biodegradable silk adhesive using biocompatible silk fibroin. This technology will contribute to the development of next-generation epidermal electronics as well as drug delivery systems. This research, led by Dr. Ji-Won Seo and a PhD candidate, Hyojung Kim, was published in Advanced Functional Materials on September 5, 2018. Figure 1. Schematic and photograph of a hydrogel patch adhered on the human skin through the silk adhesive Figure 2. Cover page of Advanced Functional Materials
Faster and More Powerful Aqueous Hybrid Capacitor
(Professor Jeung Ku Kang from the Graduate School of EEWS) A KAIST research team made it one step closer to realizing safe energy storage with high energy density, high power density, and a longer cycle life. This hybrid storage alternative shows power density 100 times faster than conventional batteries, allowing it to be charged within a few seconds. Hence, it is suitable for small portable electronic devices. Conventional electrochemical energy storage systems, including lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), have a high voltage range and energy density, but are subject to safety issues raised by flammable organic electrolytes, which are used to ensure the beneficial properties. Additionally, they suffer from slow electrochemical reaction rates, which lead to a poor charging rate and low power density with a capacity that fades quickly, resulting in a short cycle life. On the other hand, capacitors based on aqueous electrolytes are receiving a great deal of attention because they are considered to be safe and environmentally friendly alternatives. However, aqueous electrolytes lag behind energy storage systems based on organic electrolytes in terms of energy density due to their limited voltage range and low capacitance. Hence, developing aqueous energy storage with high energy density and a long cycle life in addition to the high power density that enables fast charging is the most challenging task for advancing next-generation electrochemical energy storage devices. Here, Professor Jeung Ku Kang from the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability and his team developed an aqueous hybrid capacitor (AHC) that boasts high energy density, high power, and excellent cycle stability by synthesizing two types of porous metal oxide nanoclusters on graphene to create positive and negative electrodes for AHCs. The porous metal oxide nanoparticles are composed of nanoclusters as small as two to three nanometers and have mesopores that are smaller than five nanometers. In these porous structures, ions can be rapidly transferred to the material surfaces and a large number of ions can be stored inside the metal oxide particles very quickly due to their small particle size and large surface area. The team applied porous manganese oxide on graphene for positive electrodes and porous iron oxide on graphene for negative electrodes to design an aqueous hybrid capacitor that can operate at an extended voltage range of 2V. Professor Kang said, “This newly developed AHC with high capacity and power density driven from porous metal oxide electrodes will contribute to commercializing a new type of energy storage system. This technology allows ultra-fast charging within several seconds, making it suitable as a power source for mobile devices or electric vehicles where solar energy is directly stored as electricity.” This research, co-led by Professor Hyung Mo Jeong from Kangwon National University, was published in Advanced Functional Materials on August 15, 2018. Figure 1. Image that shows properties of porous metal oxide nanoparticles formed on graphene in the aqueous hybrid capacitor
Controlling Crystal Size of Organic Semiconductors
A KAIST research team led by Professor Steve Park from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering Recently, solution-processable organic semiconductors are being highlighted for their potential application in printed electronics, becoming a feasible technique to fabricate large-area flexible thin film at a low cost. The field-effect mobility of small-molecule organic semiconductors is dependent on the crystallinity, crystal orientation, and crystal size. A variety of solution-based coating techniques, such as ink-jet printing, dip-coating, and solution shearing have been developed to control the crystallinity and crystal orientation, but a method for developing techniques to increase the crystal size of organic semiconductors is still needed. To overcome this issue, the research team developed an inorganic polymer micropillar-based solution shearing system to increase the crystal size of an organic semiconductor with pillar size. Using this technique, the crystallization process of organic semiconductors can be controlled precisely, and therefore large-area organic semiconductor thin film with controlled crystallinity can be fabricated. A variety of solution-based coating techniques cannot control the fluid-flow of solutions appropriately, so the solvent evaporates randomly onto the substrate, which has difficulty in the fabrication of organic semiconductor thin film with a large crystal size. The research team integrated inorganic polymer microstructures into the solution shearing blade to solve this issue. The inorganic polymer can easily be microstructured via conventional molding techniques, has high mechanical durability, and organic solvent resistance. Using the inorganic polymer-based microstructure blade, the research team controlled the size of small molecule organic semiconductors by tuning the shape and dimensions of the microstructure. The microstructures in the blade induce the sharp curvature regions in the meniscus line that formed between the shearing blade and the substrate, and therefore nucleation and crystal growth can be regulated. Hence, the research team fabricated organic semiconductor thin-film with large crystals, which increases the field-effect mobility. The research team also demonstrated a solution shearing process on a curved surface by using a flexible inorganic polymer-based shearing blade, which expands the applicability of solution shearing. Professor Park said, “Our new solution shearing system can control the crystallization process precisely during solvent evaporation.” He added, “This technique adds another key parameter that can be utilized to tune the property of thin films and opens up a wide variety of new applications. The results of this work entitled “Inorganic Polymer Micropillar-Based Solution Shearing of Large-Area Organic Semiconductor Thin Films with Pillar-Size-Dependent Crystal Size” was published in the July 2018 issue of Advanced Materials as a cover article.
A Molecular Sensor for In-Situ Analysis of Complex Biological Fluids
A KAIST research group presented a molecular sensor with a microbead format for the rapid in-situ detection of harmful molecules in biological fluids or foods in a collaboration with a Korea Institute of Materials Science (KIMS) research group. As the sensor is designed to selectively concentrate charged small molecules and amplify the Raman signal, no time-consuming pretreatment of samples is required. Raman spectra are commonly known as molecular fingerprints. However, their low intensity has restricted their use in molecular detection, especially for low concentrations. Raman signals can be dramatically amplified by locating the molecules on the surface of metal nanostructures where the electromagnetic field is strongly localized. However, it is still challenging to use Raman signals for the detection of small molecules dissolved in complex biological fluids. Adhesive proteins irreversibly adsorb on the metal surface, which prevents the access of small target molecules onto the metal surface. Therefore, it was a prerequisite to purify the samples before analysis. However, it takes a long time and is expensive. A joint team from Professor Shin-Hyun Kim’s group in KAIST and Dr. Dong-Ho Kim’s group in KIMS has addressed the issue by encapsulating agglomerates of gold nanoparticles using a hydrogel. The hydrogel has three-dimensional network structures so that molecules smaller than the mesh are selectively permeable. Therefore, the hydrogel can exclude relatively large proteins, while allowing the infusion of small molecules. Therefore, the surface of gold nanoparticles remains intact against proteins, which accommodates small molecules. In particular, the charged hydrogel enables the concentration of oppositely-charged small molecules. That is, the purification is autonomously done by the materials, removing the need for time-consuming pretreatment. As a result, the Raman signal of small molecules can be selectively amplified in the absence of adhesive proteins. Using the molecular sensors, the research team demonstrated the direct detection of fipronil sulfone dissolved in an egg without sample pretreatment. Recently, insecticide-contaminated eggs have spread in Europe, South Korea, and other countries, threatening health and causing social chaos. Fipronil is one of the most commonly used insecticides for veterinary medicine to combat ﬂeas. The ﬁpronil is absorbed through the chicken skin, from which a metabolite, ﬁpronil sulfone, accumulates in the eggs. As the ﬁpronil sulfone carries partial negative charges, it can be concentrated using positively-charged microgels while excluding adhesive proteins in eggs, such as ovalbumin, ovoglobulin, and ovomucoid. Therefore, the Raman spectrum of fipronil sulfone can be directly measured. The limit of direct detection of fipronil sulfone dissolved in an egg was measured at 0.05 ppm. Professor Kim said, “The molecular sensors can be used not only for the direct detection of harmful molecules in foods but also for residual drugs or biomarkers in blood or urine.” Dr. Dong-Ho Kim said, “It will be possible to save time and cost as no sample treatment is required.” This research was led by graduate student Dong Jae Kim and an article entitled “SERS-Active Charged Microgels for Size- and Charge-Selective Molecular Analysis of Complex Biological Samples” was published on October 4, 2018 in Small and featured on the inside cover of the journal. Figure 1. Schematic illustrating the concentration of charged small molecules and the exclusion of large adhesive proteins using a charged hydrogel microbead containing an agglomerate of gold nanoparticles. The Raman signal of the small molecules is selectively amplified by the agglomerate. Figure 2. Confocal laser scanning microscope images showing the concentration of oppositely charged molecules, where negatively-charged microgels are denoted by red circles and positively-charged microgels are denoted by blue circles. Green ﬂuorescence originates from negatively-charged dye molecules and red fluorescence originates from positively-charged dye molecules. Figure 3. Raman spectra measured from fipronil sulfone-spiked eggs, where the concentrations of fipronil sulfone are denoted; 0 ppm indicates no fipronil sulfone in the egg. The characteristic peaks of fipronil sulfone are denoted by the dotted lines.
Mussel-Inspired Defect Engineering Enhances the Mechanical Strength of Graphene Fibers
Researchers demonstrated the mussel-inspired reinforcement of graphene fibers for the improvement of different material properties. A research group under Professor Sang Ouk Kim applied polydopamine as an effective infiltrate binder to achieve high mechanical and electrical properties for graphene-based liquid crystalline fibers. This bio-inspired defect engineering is clearly distinguishable from previous attempts with insulating binders and proposes great potential for versatile applications of flexible and wearable devices as well as low-cost structural materials. The two-step defect engineering addresses the intrinsic limitation of graphene fibers arising from the folding and wrinkling of graphene layers during the fiber-spinning process. Bio-inspired graphene-based fiber holds great promise for a wide range of applications, including flexible electronics, multifunctional textiles, and wearable sensors. In 2009, the research group discovered graphene oxide liquid crystals in aqueous media while introducing an effective purification process to remove ionic impurities. Graphene fibers, typically wet-spun from aqueous graphene oxide liquid crystal dispersion, are expected to demonstrate superior thermal and electrical conductivities as well as outstanding mechanical performance. Nonetheless, owing to the inherent formation of defects and voids caused by bending and wrinkling the graphene oxide layer within graphene fibers, their mechanical strength and electrical/thermal conductivities are still far below the desired ideal values. Accordingly, finding an efficient method for constructing the densely packed graphene fibers with strong interlayer interaction is a principal challenge. Professor Kim's team focused on the adhesion properties of dopamine, a polymer developed with the inspiration of the natural mussel, to solve the problem. This functional polymer, which is studied in various fields, can increase the adhesion between the graphene layers and prevent structural defects. Professor Kim’s research group succeeded in fabricating high-strength graphene liquid crystalline fibers with controlled structural defects. They also fabricated fibers with improved electrical conductivity through the post-carbonization process of polydopamine. Based on the theory that dopamine with subsequent high temperature annealing has a similar structure with that of graphene, the team optimized dopamine polymerization conditions and solved the inherent defect control problems of existing graphene fibers. They also confirmed that the physical properties of dopamine are improved in terms of electrical conductivity due to the influence of nitrogen in dopamine molecules, without damaging the conductivity, which is the fundamental limit of conventional polymers. Professor Kim, who led the research, said, "Despite its technological potential, carbon fiber using graphene liquid crystals still has limits in terms of its structural limitations." This technology will be applied to composite fiber fabrication and various wearable textile-based application devices." This work, in which Dr. In-Ho Kim participated as first author was selected as a front cover paper of Advanced Materials on October 4. This research was supported by the National Creative Research Initiative (CRI) Center for Multi-Dimensional Directed Nanoscale Assembly and the Nanomaterial Technology Development Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT. Figure 1. Cross-section SEM image of pure graphene fiber (left) and that of graphene fiber after two-stage defect control using polydopamine (middle and right).
High-Performance Flexible Transparent Force Touch Sensor for Wearable Devices
Researchers reported a high-performance and transparent nanoforce touch sensor by developing a thin, flexible, and transparent hierarchical nanocomposite (HNC) film. The research team says their sensor simultaneously features all the necessary characters for industrial-grade application: high sensitivity, transparency, bending insensitivity, and manufacturability. Force touch sensors that recognize the location and pressure of external stimuli have received considerable attention for various applications, such as wearable devices, flexible displays, and humanoid robots. For decades, huge amounts of research and development have been devoted to improving pressure sensitivity to realize industrial-grade sensing devices. However, it remains a challenge to apply force touch sensors in flexible applications because sensing performance is subject to change and degraded by induced mechanical stress and deformation when the device is bent. To overcome these issues, the research team focused on the development of non-air gap sensors to break away from the conventional technology where force touch sensors need to have air-gaps between electrodes for high sensitivity and flexibility. The proposed non air-gap force touch sensor is based on a transparent nanocomposite insulator containing metal nanoparticles which can maximize the capacitance change in dielectrics according to the pressure, and a nanograting substrate which can increase transparency as well as sensitivity by concentrating pressure. As a result, the team succeeded in fabricating a highly sensitive, transparent, flexible force touch sensor that is mechanically stable against repetitive pressure. Furthermore, by placing the sensing electrodes on the same plane as the neutral plane, the force touch sensor can operate, even when bending to the radius of the ballpoint pen, without changes in performance levels. The proposed force touch has also satisfied commercial considerations in mass production such as large-area uniformity, production reproducibility, and reliability according to temperature and long-term use. Finally, the research team applied the developed sensor to a pulse-monitoring capable healthcare wearable device and detected a real-time human pulse. In addition, the research team confirmed with HiDeep, Inc. that a seven-inch large-area sensor can be integrated into a commercial smartphone. The team of Professor Jun-Bo Yoon, PhD student Jae-Young Yoo, and Dr. Min-Ho Seo from the School of Electrical Engineering carried out this study that was featured as a back cover in Advanced Functional Materials Journal. PhD student Jae-Young Yoo who led this research said, "We successfully developed an industrial-grade force touch sensor by using a simple structure and fabrication process. We expect it to be widely used in user touch interfaces and wearable devices." This research was supported by the Basic Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT, and also supported by the Open Innovation Lab Cooperation Project funded by the National Nano Fab Center. Figure 1. Schematic illustration of a transparent, flexible force touch sensor (upper image) and sensitivity enhancement by using stress concentration (lower image).
Permanent, Wireless Self-charging System Using NIR Band
(Professor Jung-Yong Lee from the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability) As wearable devices are emerging, there are numerous studies on wireless charging systems. Here, a KAIST research team has developed a permanent, wireless self-charging platform for low-power wearable electronics by converting near-infrared (NIR) band irradiation to electrical energy. This novel technology can be applied to flexible, wearable charging systems without needing any attachments. Colloidal-quantum-dots (CQDs) are promising materials for manufacturing semiconductors; in particular, PbS-based CQDs have facile optical tunability from the visible to infrared wavelength region. Hence, they can be applied to various devices, such as lighting, photovoltaics (PVs), and photodetectors. Continuous research on CQD-based optoelectronic devices has increased their power conversion efficiency (PCE) to 12%; however, applicable fields have not yet been found for them. Meanwhile, wearable electronic devices commonly face the problem of inconvenient charging systems because users have to constantly charge batteries attached to an energy source. A joint team led by Professor Jung-Yong Lee from the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability and Jang Wok Choi from Seoul National University decided to apply CQD PVs, which have high quantum efficiency in NIR band to self-charging systems on wearable devices. They employed a stable and efficient NIR energy conversion strategy. The system was comprised of a PbS CQD-based PV module, a flexible interdigitated lithium-ion battery, and various types of NIR-transparent films. The team removed the existing battery from the already commercialized wearable healthcare bracelet and replaced it with the proposed self-charging system. They confirmed that the system can be applied to a low power wearable device via the NIR band. There have been numerous platforms using solar irradiation, but the newly developed platform has more advantages because it allows conventional devices to be much more comfortable to wear and charged easily in everyday life using various irradiation sources for constant charging. With this aspect, the proposed platform facilitates more flexible designs, which are the important component for actual commercialization. It also secures higher photostability and efficient than existing structures. Professor Lee said, “By using the NIR band, we proposed a new approach to solve charging system issues of wearable devices. I believe that this platform will be a novel platform for energy conversion and that its application can be further extended to various fields, including mobiles, IoTs, and drones.” This research, led by PhD Se-Woong Baek and M.S. candidate Jungmin Cho, was published in Advanced Materials on May 11. Figure 1. a) Conceptual NIR-driven self-charging system including a flexible CQD PVs module and an interdigitatedly structured LIB. b) Photographic images of a conventional wearable healthcare bracelet and a self-charging system-integrated wearable device. Figure 2. Illustration of the CQD PVs structure and performance of the wireless self-charging platform.
Using Donut-shaped Lithium Sulfide for Higher Performing Batteries
(from left: Research Professor Fangmin Ye and Professor Hee-Tak Kim) A KAIST research team developed a lithium-sulfur battery with a doughnut-shaped active material structure showing a record lifecycle of over 600 cycles. Having higher energy density and lower production cost than a lithium-ion battery (LIB), it can be used in electric vehicles that require a longer battery life. There has been an intense research conducted for developing lithium-sulfur batteries with high energy density because LIBs only allow for a very short travel distance per charge. However, Li-S batteries are still unable to provide a longer lifecycle due to the poor reversibility of the lithium metal cathode. To tackle this issue, Professor Hee-Tak Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and his team used lithium sulfide (Li₂S) cathodes and combine them with graphite anodes to enhance energy density and lifecycles for the batteries. Yet, lithium sulfide is costly and, so far, there has not been an electrode architecture and electrolyte design that enables a longer lifecycle between the graphite anodes and lithium sulfide cathodes. Hence, the team produced a doughnut-shaped lithium sulfide cathode active material from low-cost lithium sulfide developed from raw materials. They have also developed a lithium sulfide ion battery with a graphite anode and lithium sulfide cathode using a high concentration salt electrolyte. This doughnut-shaped lithium sulfide showed outstanding charge and discharge reversibility through improving the transfer of lithium ions. Its highly concentrated salt electrolyte formed a stable film on the surface of the graphite electrode, which showed strong durability. Through this technology, the team achieved 30% higher energy density than that of conventional LIBs and secured a lifecycle of more than 600 cycles. This doughnut-shaped lithium sulfide-based electrode can be manufactured using low-cost raw materials and a single heat treatment process. The electrode can also be applied to existing LIBs. Professor Kim said, “We have demonstrated that applying low-cost sulfur compounds to LIBs can improve both energy density and the lifecycle simultaneously.” This research, led by Research Professor Fangmin Ye, was published in Advanced Science on May 7. Figure 1. Structural characterization of Li₂SO₄/CNT and Li₂S/CNT electrodes and suggested mechanism for the formation of the holey-Li₂S nanoarchitecture
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