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KAIST proposes alternatives to chemical factories through “iBridge”
- A computer simulation program “iBridge” was developed at KAIST that can put together microbial cell factories quickly and efficiently to produce cosmetics and food additives, and raw materials for nylons - Eco-friendly and sustainable fermentation process to establish an alternative to chemical plants As climate change and environmental concerns intensify, sustainable microbial cell factories garner significant attention as candidates to replace chemical plants. To develop microorganisms to be used in the microbial cell factories, it is crucial to modify their metabolic processes to induce efficient target chemical production by modulating its gene expressions. Yet, the challenge persists in determining which gene expressions to amplify and suppress, and the experimental verification of these modification targets is a time- and resource-intensive process even for experts. The challenges were addressed by a team of researchers at KAIST (President Kwang-Hyung Lee) led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee. It was announced on the 9th by the school that a method for building a microbial factory at low cost, quickly and efficiently, was presented by a novel computer simulation program developed by the team under Professor Lee’s guidance, which is named “iBridge”. This innovative system is designed to predict gene targets to either overexpress or downregulate in the goal of producing a desired compound to enable the cost-effective and efficient construction of microbial cell factories specifically tailored for producing the chemical compound in demand from renewable biomass. Systems metabolic engineering is a field of research and engineering pioneered by KAIST’s Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee that seeks to produce valuable compounds in industrial demands using microorganisms that are re-configured by a combination of methods including, but not limited to, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, systems biology, and fermentation engineering. In order to improve microorganisms’ capability to produce useful compounds, it is essential to delete, suppress, or overexpress microbial genes. However, it is difficult even for the experts to identify the gene targets to modify without experimental confirmations for each of them, which can take up immeasurable amount of time and resources. The newly developed iBridge identifies positive and negative metabolites within cells, which exert positive and/or negative impact on formation of the products, by calculating the sum of covariances of their outgoing (consuming) reaction fluxes for a target chemical. Subsequently, it pinpoints "bridge" reactions responsible for converting negative metabolites into positive ones as candidates for overexpression, while identifying the opposites as targets for downregulation. The research team successfully utilized the iBridge simulation to establish E. coli microbial cell factories each capable of producing three of the compounds that are in high demands at a production capacity that has not been reported around the world. They developed E. coli strains that can each produce panthenol, a moisturizing agent found in many cosmetics, putrescine, which is one of the key components in nylon production, and 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid, an anti-bacterial food additive. In addition to these three compounds, the study presents predictions for overexpression and suppression genes to construct microbial factories for 298 other industrially valuable compounds. Dr. Youngjoon Lee, the co-first author of this paper from KAIST, emphasized the accelerated construction of various microbial factories the newly developed simulation enabled. He stated, "With the use of this simulation, multiple microbial cell factories have been established significantly faster than it would have been using the conventional methods. Microbial cell factories producing a wider range of valuable compounds can now be constructed quickly using this technology." Professor Sang Yup Lee said, "Systems metabolic engineering is a crucial technology for addressing the current climate change issues." He added, "This simulation could significantly expedite the transition from resorting to conventional chemical factories to utilizing environmentally friendly microbial factories." < Figure. Conceptual diagram of the flow of iBridge simulation > The team’s work on iBridge is described in a paper titled "Genome-Wide Identification of Overexpression and Downregulation Gene Targets Based on the Sum of Covariances of the Outgoing Reaction Fluxes" written by Dr. Won Jun Kim, and Dr. Youngjoon Lee of the Bioprocess Research Center and Professors Hyun Uk Kim and Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering of KAIST. The paper was published via peer-review on the 6th of November on “Cell Systems” by Cell Press. This research was conducted with the support from the Development of Platform Technologies of Microbial Cell Factories for the Next-generation Biorefineries Project (Project Leader: Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee, KAIST) and Development of Platform Technology for the Production of Novel Aromatic Bioplastic using Microbial Cell Factories Project (Project Leader: Research Professor So Young Choi, KAIST) of the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT.
KAIST presents a microbial cell factory as a source of eco-friendly food and cosmetic coloring
Despite decades of global population growth, global food crisis seems to be at hand yet again because the food productivity is cut severely due to prolonged presence of abnormal weather from intensifying climate change and global food supply chain is deteriorated due to international conflicts such as wars exacerbating food shortages and nutritional inequality around the globe. At the same time, however, as awareness of the environment and sustainability rises, an increase in demand for more eco-friendly and high-quality food and beauty products is being observed not without a sense of irony. At a time like this, microorganisms are attracting attention as a key that can handle this couple of seemingly distant problems. KAIST (President Kwang-Hyung Lee) announced on the 26th that Kyeong Rok Choi, a research professor of the Bioprocess Research Center and Sang Yup Lee, a Distinguished Professor of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, published a paper titled “Metabolic Engineering of Microorganisms for Food and Cosmetics Production” upon invitation by “Nature Reviews Bioengineering” to be published online published by Nature after peer review. ※ Paper title: Systems metabolic engineering of microorganisms for food and cosmetics production ※ Author information: Kyeong Rok Choi (first author) and Sang Yup Lee (corresponding author) Systems metabolic engineering is a research field founded by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of KAIST to more effectively develop microbial cell factories, the core factor of the next-generation bio industry to replace the existing chemical industry that relies heavily on petroleum. By applying a systemic metabolic engineering strategy, the researchers have developed a number of high-performance microbial cell factories that produce a variety of food and cosmetic compounds including natural substances like heme and zinc protoporphyrin IX compounds which can improve the flavor and color of synthetic meat, lycopene and β-carotene which are functional natural pigments that can be widely used in food and cosmetics, and methyl anthranilate, a grape-derived compound widely used to impart grape flavor in food and beverage manufacturing. In this paper written upon invitation by Nature, the research team covered remarkable cases of microbial cell factory that can produce amino acids, proteins, fats and fatty acids, vitamins, flavors, pigments, alcohols, functional compounds and other food additives used in various foods and cosmetics and the companies that have successfully commercialized these microbial-derived materials Furthermore, the paper organized and presents systems metabolic engineering strategies that can spur the development of industrial microbial cell factories that can produce more diverse food and cosmetic compounds in an eco-friendly way with economic feasibility. < Figure 1. Examples of production of food and cosmetic compounds using microbial cell factories > For example, by producing proteins or amino acids with high nutritional value through non-edible biomass used as animal feed or fertilizer through the microbial fermentation process, it will contribute to the increase in production and stable supply of food around the world. Furthermore, by contributing to developing more viable alternative meat, further reducing dependence on animal protein, it can also contribute to reducing greenhouse gases and environmental pollution generated through livestock breeding or fish farming. In addition, vanillin or methyl anthranilate, which give off vanilla or grape flavor, are widely added to various foods, but natural products isolated and refined from plants are low in production and high in production cost, so in most cases, petrochemicals substances derived from vanillin and methylanthranilic acid are added to food. These materials can also be produced through an eco-friendly and human-friendly method by borrowing the power of microorganisms. Ethical and resource problems that arise in producing compounds like Calmin (cochineal pigment), a coloring added to various cosmetics and foods such as red lipstick and strawberry-flavored milk, which must be extracted from cochineal insects that live only in certain cacti. and Hyaluronic acid, which is widely consumed as a health supplement, but is only present in omega-3 fatty acids extracted from shark or fish livers, can also be resolved when they can be produced in an eco-friendly way using microorganisms. KAIST Research Professor Kyeong Rok Choi, the first author of this paper, said, “In addition to traditional fermented foods such as kimchi and yogurt, foods produced with the help of microorganisms like cocoa butter, a base ingredient for chocolate that can only be obtained from fermented cacao beans, and monosodium glutamate, a seasoning produced through microbial fermentation are already familiar to us”. “In the future, we will be able to acquire a wider variety of foods and cosmetics even more easily produced in an eco-friendly and sustainable way in our daily lives through microbial cell factories.” he added. < Figure 2. Systems metabolic engineering strategy to improve metabolic flow in microbial cell factories > Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee said, “It is engineers’ mission to make the world a better place utilizing science and technology.” and added, “Continuous advancement and active use of systems metabolic engineering will contribute greatly to easing and resolving the problems arising from both the food crisis and the climate change." This research was carried out as a part of the “Development of Protein Production Technology from Inorganic Substances through Control of Microbial Metabolism System Project” (Project Leader: Kyeong Rok Choi, KAIST Research Professor) of the the Center for Agricultural Microorganism and Enzyme (Director Pahn-Shick Chang) supported by the Rural Development Administration and the “Development of Platform Technologies of Microbial Cell Factories for the Next-generation Biorefineries Project” (Project Leader: Sang Yup Lee, KAIST Distinguished Professor) of the Petroleum-Substitute Eco-friendly Chemical Technology Development Program supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT.
Synthetic sRNAs to knockdown genes in medical and industrial bacteria
Bacteria are intimately involved in our daily lives. These microorganisms have been used in human history for food such as cheese, yogurt, and wine, In more recent years, through metabolic engineering, microorganisms been used extensively as microbial cell factories to manufacture plastics, feed for livestock, dietary supplements, and drugs. However, in addition to these bacteria that are beneficial to human lives, pathogens such as Pneumonia, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus that cause various infectious diseases are also ubiquitously present. It is important to be able to metabolically control these beneficial industrial bacteria for high value-added chemicals production and to manipulate harmful pathogens to suppress its pathogenic traits. KAIST (President Kwang Hyung Lee) announced on the 10th that a research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Biochemical Engineering has developed a new sRNA tool that can effectively inhibit target genes in various bacteria, including both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. The research results were published online on April 24 in Nature Communications. ※ Thesis title: Targeted and high-throughput gene knockdown in diverse bacteria using synthetic sRNAs ※ Author information : Jae Sung Cho (co-1st), Dongsoo Yang (co-1st), Cindy Pricilia Surya Prabowo (co-author), Mohammad Rifqi Ghiffary (co-author), Taehee Han (co-author), Kyeong Rok Choi (co-author), Cheon Woo Moon (co-author), Hengrui Zhou (co-author), Jae Yong Ryu (co-author), Hyun Uk Kim (co-author) and Sang Yup Lee (corresponding author). sRNA is an effective tool for synthesizing and regulating target genes in E. coli, but it has been difficult to apply to industrially useful Gram-positive bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis and Corynebacterium in addition to Gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli. To address this issue, a research team led by Distinguished Professor Lee Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST developed a new sRNA platform that can effectively suppress target genes in various bacteria, including both Gram-negative and positive bacteria. The research team surveyed thousands of microbial-derived sRNA systems in the microbial database, and eventually designated the sRNA system derived from 'Bacillus subtilis' that showed the highest gene knockdown efficiency, and designated it as “Broad-Host-Range sRNA”, or BHR-sRNA. A similar well-known system is the CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) system, which is a modified CRISPR system that knocks down gene expression by suppressing the gene transcription process. However, the Cas9 protein in the CRISPRi system has a very high molecular weight, and there have been reports growth inhibition in bacteria. The BHR-sRNA system developed in this study did not affect bacterial growth while showing similar gene knockdown efficiencies to CRISPRi. < Figure 1. a) Schematic illustration demonstrating the mechanism of syntetic sRNA b) Phylogenetic tree of the 16 Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacterial species tested for gene knockdown by the BHR-sRNA system. > To validate the versatility of the BHR-sRNA system, 16 different gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria were selected and tested, where the BHR-sRNA system worked successfully in 15 of them. In addition, it was demonstrated that the gene knockdown capability was more effective than that of the existing E. coli-based sRNA system in 10 bacteria. The BHR-sRNA system proved to be a universal tool capable of effectively inhibiting gene expression in various bacteria. In order to address the problem of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that have recently become more serious, the BHR-sRNA was demonstrated to suppress the pathogenicity by suppressing the gene producing the virulence factor. By using BHR-sRNA, biofilm formation, one of the factors resulting in antibiotic resistance, was inhibited by 73% in Staphylococcus epidermidis a pathogen that can cause hospital-acquired infections. Antibiotic resistance was also weakened by 58% in the pneumonia causing bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae. In addition, BHR-sRNA was applied to industrial bacteria to develop microbial cell factories to produce high value-added chemicals with better production performance. Notably, superior industrial strains were constructed with the aid of BHR-sRNA to produce the following chemicals: valerolactam, a raw material for polyamide polymers, methyl-anthranilate, a grape-flavor food additive, and indigoidine, a blue-toned natural dye. The BHR-sRNA developed through this study will help expedite the commercialization of bioprocesses to produce high value-added compounds and materials such as artificial meat, jet fuel, health supplements, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. It is also anticipated that to help eradicating antibiotic-resistant pathogens in preparation for another upcoming pandemic. “In the past, we could only develop new tools for gene knockdown for each bacterium, but now we have developed a tool that works for a variety of bacteria” said Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee. This work was supported by the Development of Next-generation Biorefinery Platform Technologies for Leading Bio-based Chemicals Industry Project and the Development of Platform Technologies of Microbial Cell Factories for the Next-generation Biorefineries Project from NRF supported by the Korean MSIT.
KAIST researchers find the key to overcome the limits in X-ray microscopy
X-ray microscopes have the advantage of penetrating most substances, so internal organs and skeletons can be observed non-invasively through chest X-rays or CT scans. Recently, studies to increase the resolution of X-ray imaging technology are being actively conducted in order to precisely observe the internal structure of semiconductors and batteries at the nanoscale. KAIST (President Kwang Hyung Lee) announced on April 12th that a joint research team led by Professor YongKeun Park of the Department of Physics and Dr. Jun Lim of the Pohang Accelerator Laboratory has succeeded in developing a core technology that can overcome the resolution limitations of existing X-ray microscopes. d This study, in which Dr. KyeoReh Lee participated as the first author, was published on 6th of April in “Light: Science and Application”, a world-renowned academic journal in optics and photonics. (Paper title: Direct high-resolution X-ray imaging exploiting pseudorandomness). X-ray nanomicroscopes do not have refractive lenses. In an X-ray microscope, a circular grating called a concentric zone plate is used instead of a lens. The resolution of an image obtained using the zone plate is determined by the quality of the nanostructure that comprises the plate. There are several difficulties in fabricating and maintaining these nanostructures, which set the limit to the level of resolution for X-ray microscopy. The research team developed a new X-ray nanomicroscopy technology to overcome this problem. The X-ray lens proposed by the research team is in the form of numerous holes punched in a thin tungsten film, and generates random diffraction patterns by diffracting incident X-rays. The research team mathematically identified that, paradoxically, the high-resolution information of the sample was fully contained in these random diffraction patterns, and actually succeeded in extracting the information and imaging the internal states of the samples. The imaging method using the mathematical properties of random diffraction was proposed and implemented in the visible light band for the first time by Dr. KyeoReh Lee and Professor YongKeun Park in 2016*. This study uses the results of previous studies to solve the difficult, lingering problem in the field of the X-ray imaging. ※ "Exploiting the speckle-correlation scattering matrix for a compact reference-free holographic image sensor." Nature communications 7.1 (2016): 13359. The resolution of the image of the constructed sample has no direct correlation with the size of the pattern etched on the random lens used. Based on this idea, the research team succeeded in acquiring images with 14 nm resolution (approximately 1/7 the size of the coronavirus) by using random lenses made in a circular pattern with a diameter of 300 nm. The imaging technology developed by this research team is a key fundamental technology that can enhance the resolution of X-ray nanomicroscopy, which has been blocked by limitations of the production of existing zone plates. The first author and one of the co-corresponding author, Dr. KyeoReh Lee of KAIST Department of Physics, said, “In this study, the resolution was limited to 14 nm, but if the next-generation X-ray light source and high-performance X-ray detector are used, the resolution would exceed that of the conventional X-ray nano-imaging and approach the resolution of an electron microscope.” and added, “Unlike an electron microscope, X-rays can observe the internal structure without damaging the sample, so it will be able to present a new standard for non-invasive nanostructure observation processes such as quality inspections for semiconductors.”. The co-corresponding author, Dr. Jun Lim of the Pohang Accelerator Laboratory, said, “In the same context, the developed image technology is expected to greatly increase the performance in the 4th generation multipurpose radiation accelerator which is set to be established in Ochang of the Northern Chungcheong Province.” This research was conducted with the support through the Research Leader Program and the Sejong Science Fellowship of the National Research Foundation of Korea. Fig. 1. Designed diffuser as X-ray imaging lens. a, Schematic of full-field transmission X-ray microscopy. The attenuation (amplitude) map of a sample is measured. The image resolution (dx) is limited by the outermost zone width of the zone plate (D). b, Schematic of the proposed method. A designed diffuser is used instead of a zone plate. The image resolution is finer than the hole size of the diffuser (dx << D). Fig. 2. The left panel is a surface electron microscopy (SEM) image of the X-ray diffuser used in the experiment. The middle panel shows the design of the X-ray diffuser, and there is an inset in the middle of the panel that shows a corresponding part of the SEM image. The right panel shows an experimental random X-ray diffraction pattern, also known as a speckle pattern, obtained from the X-ray diffuser. Fig. 3. Images taken from the proposed randomness-based X-ray imaging (bottom) and the corresponding surface electron microscope (SEM) images (top).
KAIST researchers devises a technology to utilize ultrahigh-resolution micro-LED with 40% reduced self-generated heat
In the digitized modern life, various forms of future displays, such as wearable and rollable displays are required. More and more people are wanting to connect to the virtual world whenever and wherever with the use of their smartglasses or smartwatches. Even further, we’ve been hearing about medical diagnosis kit on a shirt and a theatre-hat. However, it is not quite here in our hands yet due to technical limitations of being unable to fit as many pixels as a limited surface area of a glasses while keeping the power consumption at the a level that a hand held battery can supply, all the while the resolution of 4K+ is needed in order to perfectly immerse the users into the augmented or virtual reality through a wireless smartglasses or whatever the device. KAIST (President Kwang Hyung Lee) announced on the 22nd that Professor Sang Hyeon Kim's research team of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering re-examined the phenomenon of efficiency degradation of micro-LEDs with pixels in a size of micrometers (μm, one millionth of a meter) and found that it was possible to fundamentally resolve the problem by the use of epitaxial structure engineering. Epitaxy refers to the process of stacking gallium nitride crystals that are used as a light emitting body on top of an ultrapure silicon or sapphire substrate used for μLEDs as a medium. μLED is being actively studied because it has the advantages of superior brightness, contrast ratio, and lifespan compared to OLED. In 2018, Samsung Electronics commercialized a product equipped with μLED called 'The Wall'. And there is a prospect that Apple may be launching a μLED-mounted product in 2025. In order to manufacture μLEDs, pixels are formed by cutting the epitaxial structure grown on a wafer into a cylinder or cuboid shape through an etching process, and this etching process is accompanied by a plasma-based process. However, these plasmas generate defects on the side of the pixel during the pixel formation process. Therefore, as the pixel size becomes smaller and the resolution increases, the ratio of the surface area to the volume of the pixel increases, and defects on the side of the device that occur during processing further reduce the device efficiency of the μLED. Accordingly, a considerable amount of research has been conducted on mitigating or removing sidewall defects, but this method has a limit to the degree of improvement as it must be done at the post-processing stage after the grown of the epitaxial structure is finished. The research team identified that there is a difference in the current moving to the sidewall of the μLED depending on the epitaxial structure during μLED device operation, and based on the findings, the team built a structure that is not sensitive to sidewall defects to solve the problem of reduced efficiency due to miniaturization of μLED devices. In addition, the proposed structure reduced the self-generated heat while the device was running by about 40% compared to the existing structure, which is also of great significance in commercialization of ultrahigh-resolution μLED displays. This study, which was led by Woo Jin Baek of Professor Sang Hyeon Kim's research team at the KAIST School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering as the first author with guidance by Professor Sang Hyeon Kim and Professor Dae-Myeong Geum of the Chungbuk National University (who was with the team as a postdoctoral researcher at the time) as corresponding authors, was published in the international journal, 'Nature Communications' on March 17th. (Title of the paper: Ultra-low-current driven InGaN blue micro light-emitting diodes for electrically efficient and self-heating relaxed microdisplay). Professor Sang Hyeon Kim said, "This technological development has great meaning in identifying the cause of the drop in efficiency, which was an obstacle to miniaturization of μLED, and solving it with the design of the epitaxial structure.“ He added, ”We are looking forward to it being used in manufacturing of ultrahigh-resolution displays in the future." This research was carried out with the support of the Samsung Future Technology Incubation Center. Figure 1. Image of electroluminescence distribution of μLEDs fabricated from epitaxial structures with quantum barriers of different thicknesses while the current is running Figure 2. Thermal distribution images of devices fabricated with different epitaxial structures under the same amount of light. Figure 3. Normalized external quantum efficiency of the device fabricated with the optimized epitaxial structure by sizes.
KAIST researchers develops a tech to enable production of ultrahigh-resolution LED with sub-micrometer scale pixels
Ultrahigh-resolution displays are an essential element for developing next-generation electronic products such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and smart watches, and can be applied not only to head-mounted displays, but also to smart glasses and smart lenses. The technology developed through this research is expected to be used to make such next-generation ultrahigh-resolution displays and other various sub-micro optoelectronic devices. KAIST (President Kwang Hyung Lee) announced on the 22nd that Professor Yong-Hoon Cho's research team of KAIST Department of Physics developed the core technology for an ultrahigh resolution light-emitting diode (LED) display that can realize 0.5 micron-scale pixels smaller than 1/100 of the average hair thickness (about 100 microns) using focused ion beams. Commonly, pixelation of ultrahigh-resolution LED displays usually relies on the etching method that physically cuts the area around the pixel, but as the pixel becomes smaller due to the occurrence of various defects around it, leading to side-effects of having leakage of current increased and light-emission efficiency decreased. In addition, various complex processes such as patterning for pixelation and post-processing for prevention of leakage current are required. Professor Yong-Hoon Cho's research team developed a technology that can create pixels down to the size of a microscale without the complicated pre- and post-processing using a focused ion beam. This method has the advantage of being able to freely set the shape of the emitting pixel without causing any structural deformation on the material surface by controlling the intensity of the focused ion beam. The focused ion beam technology has been widely used for ultrahigh-magnification imaging and nanostructure fabrication in fields such as materials engineering and biology. However, when a focused ion beam is used on a light emitting body such as an LED, light emission of a portion hit by the beam and a surrounding area rapidly decreases, which has been a barrier to fabricating a nano-scale light emitting structure. Upon facing this issue, Professor Cho's research team began the research on the idea that if they turned things around to use these problematic phenomena, they can be used in ultra-fine pixelation method on a sub-micron scale. The research team used a focused ion beam whose intensity was softened to the extent that the surface was not shaved, and found that not only the light-emission rapidly decreased in the area hit by the focused ion beam, but also the local resistance greatly increased. As a result, while the surface of the LED is kept flat, the portion hit by the focused ion beam is optically and electrically isolated, enabling pixelation for independent operation. Professor Yong-Hoon Cho, who led the research, said, “We have newly developed a technology that can create sub-micron-scale pixels without complicated processes using a focused ion beam, which will be a base technology that can be applied to next-generation ultrahigh-resolution displays and nano-photoelectronic devices.” This research in which the Master's student Ji-Hwan Moon and the Ph.D. student Baul Kim of KAIST Department of Physics participated as co-first authors, was carried out with the support of the National Research Foundation of Korea's Support Program for Mid-Career Researchers and the Institute of Information and Communications Technology Planning and Evaluation. It was published online in 'Advanced Materials' on February 13, and was also selected as the internal cover of the next offline edition. (Title: Electrically Driven Sub-Micron Light-Emitting Diode Arrays Using Maskless and Etching-Free Pixelation) Figure 1. Schematic diagram of the technology for ultrahigh density sub-micron-sized pixels through He focused ion beam (FIB) irradiation on an LED device Figure 2. Ultra-high-density pixelation technology of micro light-emitting diodes (μLED) through He focused ion beam (FIB) irradiation Figure 3. Rectangular pixels of different sizes (surface structure picture and luminescence picture) realized by a focused ion beam. Luminescence pictures of pixel arrays ranging in size from 20 µm x 20 µm to 0.5 µm x 0.5 µm, with surface flatness maintained.
Overview of the 30-year history of metabolic engineering
< Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST > A research team comprised of Gi Bae Kim, Dr. So Young Choi, Dr. In Jin Cho, Da-Hee Ahn, and Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST reported the 30-year history of metabolic engineering, highlighting examples of recent progress in the field and contributions to sustainability and health. Their paper “Metabolic engineering for sustainability and health” was published online in the 40th anniversary special issue of Trends in Biotechnology on January 10, 2023. Metabolic engineering, a discipline of engineering that modifies cell phenotypes through molecular and genetic-level manipulations to improve cellular activities, has been studied since the early 1990s, and has progressed significantly over the past 30 years. In particular, metabolic engineering has enabled the engineering of microorganisms for the development of microbial cell factories capable of efficiently producing chemicals and materials as well as degrading recalcitrant contaminants. This review article revisited how metabolic engineering has advanced over the past 30 years, from the advent of genetic engineering techniques such as recombinant DNA technologies to recent breakthroughs in systems metabolic engineering and data science aided by artificial intelligence. The research team highlighted momentous events and achievements in metabolic engineering, providing both trends and future directions in the field. Metabolic engineering’s contributions to bio-based sustainable chemicals and clean energy, health, and bioremediation were also reviewed. Finally, the research team shared their perspectives on the future challenges impacting metabolic engineering than must be overcome in order to achieve advancements in sustainability and health. Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee said, “Replacing fossil resource-based chemical processes with bio-based sustainable processes for the production of chemicals, fuels, and materials using metabolic engineering has become our essential task for the future. By looking back on the 30+ years of metabolic engineering, we aimed to highlight the contributions of metabolic engineering to achieve sustainability and good health.” He added, “Metabolic engineering will play an increasingly important role as a key solution to the climate crisis, environmental pollution, food and energy shortages, and health problems in aging societies.” < Figure: Metabolic Engineering Timeline >
KAIST Team Develops Surface-Lighting MicroLED Patch with Significant Melanogenesis Inhibition Effect
A KAIST research team led by Ph.d candidate Jae Hee Lee and Professor Keon Jae Lee from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering has developed a surface-lighting microLED patch for UV-induced melanogenesis inhibition. Melanin is brown or dark pigments existing in the skin, which can be abnormally synthesized by external UV or stress. Since the excessive melanin leads to skin diseases such as spots and freckles, proper treatment is required to return normal skin condition. Recently, LED-based photo-stimulators have been released for skin care, however, their therapeutic effect is still controversial. Since conventional LED stimulators cannot conformally attach to the human skin, distance-induced side effects are caused by light loss and high heat transfer. To achieve effective phototreatment, the LED stimulator needs to be irradiated in contact with the human skin surface, enabling proper and uniform light deliver to the dermis with minimal optical loss. In this work, the research team fabricated skin-attachable surface-lighting microLED (SµLED, 4 × 4 cm2) patch by utilizing a thousand of microLED chips and silica-embedded light diffusion layer. 100 µm-sized LED chips are vertically-interconnected for high flexibility and low heat generation, allowing its long-term operation on the human skin. < Image 1. The overall concept of SµLED patch. a) SµLED patch operated on the human skin. b) Schematic illustration of SµLED patch structure. c) 4 × 4 cm2-sized SµLED patch. d) Schematic illustration of the advantages of SµLED patch such as efficient light delivery, low heat generation, and surface-lighting irradiation. > The research team confirmed melanogenesis inhibition by irradiating the SµLED patch and the conventional LED (CLED) on the artificial human skin and mice dorsal skin. The SµLED-treated groups of human cells and mouse tissues showed minimal epidermal photo-toxicity and consistently effective reduction in synthesized melanin, compared to CLED-treated groups. In addition, significant suppression of proteins/catalysts expression involved in melanin synthesis such as MITF (microphthalmia-associated transcription factor), Melan-A and tyrosinase was verified. < Image 2. The efficacy of melanogenesis inhibition on 3D human skin cells. a). Different irradiation conditions for a-MSH (major factor to stimulate melanin synthesis) treated cells. b) The ratio of pigmented area to total epidermis area. c) Relative variance of melanin level in 1 cm2-sized skin cells. A low variance means that melanin is evenly distributed, and a high variance means that the melanin is irregularly distributed. d) Optical images after in vitro experiments for 12 days. Scale bar, 1cm. e) Histological analysis of 3D skin, showing the greatest reduction in melanin after SµLED irradiation. Scale bar, 20 µm. > < Image 3. The efficacy of melanogenesis inhibition on mouse dorsal skin. a) Optical images of mice dorsal skin after photo-treatment for 20 days. b) Histological analysis of mice dorsal skin. Less brown color means less expression of protein/catalysis involved in melanin synthesis. Scale bar, 50 µm. > Prof. Keon Jae Lee said, “Our inorganic-based SµLED patch has outstanding characteristics in light efficiency, reliability, and durability. The SµLED patch is expected to give a great impact on the cosmetic field by reducing side effects and maximizing phototherapeutic effects.” The core technology of cosmetic SµLED has been transferred to Fronics co., Ltd, founded by Prof. Lee. Fronics is building foundry and equipment for mass production of SµLED masks for whole face cover and plans to release the products in March next year. This paper entitled “Wearable Surface-Lighting Micro-Light-Emitting Diode Patch for Melanogenesis Inhibition” was published in the November 2022 issue of Advanced Healthcare Materials.
Yuji Roh Awarded 2022 Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship
KAIST PhD candidate Yuji Roh of the School of Electrical Engineering (advisor: Prof. Steven Euijong Whang) was selected as a recipient of the 2022 Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship. < KAIST PhD candidate Yuji Roh (advisor: Prof. Steven Euijong Whang) > The Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship is a scholarship program that recognizes outstanding graduate students for their exceptional and innovative research in areas relevant to computer science and related fields. This year, 36 people from around the world received the fellowship, and Yuji Roh from KAIST EE is the only recipient from universities in Korea. Each selected fellow will receive a $10,000 scholarship and an opportunity to intern at Microsoft under the guidance of an experienced researcher. Yuji Roh was named a fellow in the field of “Machine Learning” for her outstanding achievements in Trustworthy AI. Her research highlights include designing a state-of-the-art fair training framework using batch selection and developing novel algorithms for both fair and robust training. Her works have been presented at the top machine learning conferences ICML, ICLR, and NeurIPS among others. She also co-presented a tutorial on Trustworthy AI at the top data mining conference ACM SIGKDD. She is currently interning at the NVIDIA Research AI Algorithms Group developing large-scale real-world fair AI frameworks. The list of fellowship recipients and the interview videos are displayed on the Microsoft webpage and Youtube. The list of recipients: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/academic-program/phd-fellowship/2022-recipients/ Interview (Global): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4Q-XwOOoJc Interview (Asia): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwq3R1XU8UE [Highlighted research achievements by Yuji Roh: Fair batch selection framework] [Highlighted research achievements by Yuji Roh: Fair and robust training framework]
Interactive Map of Metabolical Synthesis of Chemicals
An interactive map that compiled the chemicals produced by biological, chemical and combined reactions has been distributed on the web - A team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, organized and distributed an all-inclusive listing of chemical substances that can be synthesized using microorganisms - It is expected to be used by researchers around the world as it enables easy assessment of the synthetic pathway through the web. A research team comprised of Woo Dae Jang, Gi Bae Kim, and Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST reported an interactive metabolic map of bio-based chemicals. Their research paper “An interactive metabolic map of bio-based chemicals” was published online in Trends in Biotechnology on August 10, 2022. As a response to rapid climate change and environmental pollution, research on the production of petrochemical products using microorganisms is receiving attention as a sustainable alternative to existing methods of productions. In order to synthesize various chemical substances, materials, and fuel using microorganisms, it is necessary to first construct the biosynthetic pathway toward desired product by exploration and discovery and introduce them into microorganisms. In addition, in order to efficiently synthesize various chemical substances, it is sometimes necessary to employ chemical methods along with bioengineering methods using microorganisms at the same time. For the production of non-native chemicals, novel pathways are designed by recruiting enzymes from heterologous sources or employing enzymes designed though rational engineering, directed evolution, or ab initio design. The research team had completed a map of chemicals which compiled all available pathways of biological and/or chemical reactions that lead to the production of various bio-based chemicals back in 2019 and published the map in Nature Catalysis. The map was distributed in the form of a poster to industries and academia so that the synthesis paths of bio-based chemicals could be checked at a glance. The research team has expanded the bio-based chemicals map this time in the form of an interactive map on the web so that anyone with internet access can quickly explore efficient paths to synthesize desired products. The web-based map provides interactive visual tools to allow interactive visualization, exploration, and analysis of complex networks of biological and/or chemical reactions toward the desired products. In addition, the reported paper also discusses the production of natural compounds that are used for diverse purposes such as food and medicine, which will help designing novel pathways through similar approaches or by exploiting the promiscuity of enzymes described in the map. The published bio-based chemicals map is also available at http://systemsbiotech.co.kr. The co-first authors, Dr. Woo Dae Jang and Ph.D. student Gi Bae Kim, said, “We conducted this study to address the demand for updating the previously distributed chemicals map and enhancing its versatility.” “The map is expected to be utilized in a variety of research and in efforts to set strategies and prospects for chemical production incorporating bio and chemical methods that are detailed in the map.” Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee said, “The interactive bio-based chemicals map is expected to help design and optimization of the metabolic pathways for the biosynthesis of target chemicals together with the strategies of chemical conversions, serving as a blueprint for developing further ideas on the production of desired chemicals through biological and/or chemical reactions.” The interactive metabolic map of bio-based chemicals.
Atomically-Smooth Gold Crystals Help to Compress Light for Nanophotonic Applications
Highly compressed mid-infrared optical waves in a thin dielectric crystal on monocrystalline gold substrate investigated for the first time using a high-resolution scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscope. KAIST researchers and their collaborators at home and abroad have successfully demonstrated a new platform for guiding the compressed light waves in very thin van der Waals crystals. Their method to guide the mid-infrared light with minimal loss will provide a breakthrough for the practical applications of ultra-thin dielectric crystals in next-generation optoelectronic devices based on strong light-matter interactions at the nanoscale. Phonon-polaritons are collective oscillations of ions in polar dielectrics coupled to electromagnetic waves of light, whose electromagnetic field is much more compressed compared to the light wavelength. Recently, it was demonstrated that the phonon-polaritons in thin van der Waals crystals can be compressed even further when the material is placed on top of a highly conductive metal. In such a configuration, charges in the polaritonic crystal are “reflected” in the metal, and their coupling with light results in a new type of polariton waves called the image phonon-polaritons. Highly compressed image modes provide strong light-matter interactions, but are very sensitive to the substrate roughness, which hinders their practical application. Challenged by these limitations, four research groups combined their efforts to develop a unique experimental platform using advanced fabrication and measurement methods. Their findings were published in Science Advances on July 13. A KAIST research team led by Professor Min Seok Jang from the School of Electrical Engineering used a highly sensitive scanning near-field optical microscope (SNOM) to directly measure the optical fields of the hyperbolic image phonon-polaritons (HIP) propagating in a 63 nm-thick slab of hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) on a monocrystalline gold substrate, showing the mid-infrared light waves in dielectric crystal compressed by a hundred times. Professor Jang and a research professor in his group, Sergey Menabde, successfully obtained direct images of HIP waves propagating for many wavelengths, and detected a signal from the ultra-compressed high-order HIP in a regular h-BN crystals for the first time. They showed that the phonon-polaritons in van der Waals crystals can be significantly more compressed without sacrificing their lifetime. This became possible due to the atomically-smooth surfaces of the home-grown gold crystals used as a substrate for the h-BN. Practically zero surface scattering and extremely small ohmic loss in gold at mid-infrared frequencies provide a low-loss environment for the HIP propagation. The HIP mode probed by the researchers was 2.4 times more compressed and yet exhibited a similar lifetime compared to the phonon-polaritons with a low-loss dielectric substrate, resulting in a twice higher figure of merit in terms of the normalized propagation length. The ultra-smooth monocrystalline gold flakes used in the experiment were chemically grown by the team of Professor N. Asger Mortensen from the Center for Nano Optics at the University of Southern Denmark. Mid-infrared spectrum is particularly important for sensing applications since many important organic molecules have absorption lines in the mid-infrared. However, a large number of molecules is required by the conventional detection methods for successful operation, whereas the ultra-compressed phonon-polariton fields can provide strong light-matter interactions at the microscopic level, thus significantly improving the detection limit down to a single molecule. The long lifetime of the HIP on monocrystalline gold will further improve the detection performance. Furthermore, the study conducted by Professor Jang and the team demonstrated the striking similarity between the HIP and the image graphene plasmons. Both image modes possess significantly more confined electromagnetic field, yet their lifetime remains unaffected by the shorter polariton wavelength. This observation provides a broader perspective on image polaritons in general, and highlights their superiority in terms of the nanolight waveguiding compared to the conventional low-dimensional polaritons in van der Waals crystals on a dielectric substrate. Professor Jang said, “Our research demonstrated the advantages of image polaritons, and especially the image phonon-polaritons. These optical modes can be used in the future optoelectronic devices where both the low-loss propagation and the strong light-matter interaction are necessary. I hope that our results will pave the way for the realization of more efficient nanophotonic devices such as metasurfaces, optical switches, sensors, and other applications operating at infrared frequencies.” This research was funded by the Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF). The Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and The Villum Foundation, Denmark, also supported the work. Figure. Nano-tip is used for the ultra-high-resolution imaging of the image phonon-polaritons in hBN launched by the gold crystal edge. Publication: Menabde, S. G., et al. (2022) Near-field probing of image phonon-polaritons in hexagonal boron nitride on gold crystals. Science Advances 8, Article ID: eabn0627. Available online at https://science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abn0627. Profile: Min Seok Jang, MS, PhD Associate Professor email@example.com http://janglab.org/ Min Seok Jang Research Group School of Electrical Engineering http://kaist.ac.kr/en/ Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea
Professor Hyunjoo Jenny Lee to Co-Chair IEEE MEMS 2025
Professor Hyunjoo Jenny Lee from the School of Electrical Engineering has been appointed General Chair of the 38th IEEE MEMS 2025 (International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems). Professor Lee, who is 40, is the conference’s youngest General Chair to date and will work jointly with Professor Sheng-Shian Li of Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University as co-chairs in 2025. IEEE MEMS is a top-tier international conference on microelectromechanical systems and it serves as a core academic showcase for MEMS research and technology in areas such as microsensors and actuators. With over 800 MEMS paper submissions each year, the conference only accepts and publishes about 250 of them after a rigorous review process recognized for its world-class prestige. Of all the submissions, fewer than 10% are chosen for oral presentations.
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