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Korea’s POSTECH Explores Nanotechnology Frontiers

by Editor1 last modified January 20, 2010 - 21:14

Just over two years after the establishment of one of Korea's most noted nanotechnology education and research center, the National Center for Nanomaterials and Technology (NCNT) at POSTECH or Pohang University of Science and Technology, NanoScienceWorks.org is pleased to feature an interview with Prof Yoon-Ha Jeong, visionary founder of NCNT and VP of Research at POSTECH.

Korea’s POSTECH Explores Nanotechnology Frontiers

Prof. Yoon-Ha Jeong is the founder of National Center for Nanomaterials Technology (NCNT) and VP of Research, POSTECH

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Korea’s POSTECH: Exploring the Frontiers of Nanotechnology

An NanoScineceWorks.org Interview with Prof. Yoon-Ha Jeong,
founder of POSTECH’s National Center for Nanomaterials Technology (NCNT)
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On May 30, 2007, Pohang University of Science and Technology, one of the major schools in Korea, celebrated the opening of its new institute, National Center for Nanomaterials and Technology (NCNT), with Roh Moo-hyun, the President of Korea, among the distinguished guests.

Since that time, NCNT has distinguished itself as a world leading nanoscience center, with a focus on: development of next generation nanomaterials, innovative research and analytical techniques with a focus on multi-discipline nanoscience, a commitment to nurture venture companies and to create new businesses.

The NCNT has also contributed greatly to accelerating the advancement of Korean high technology training and education techniques, and participated in a number of joint projects with Korean state-of-the-art institutes, researchers, and private corporations including POSCO, the nation’s leading steel manufacturer .

NanoScienceWorks.org is pleased to feature an interview with Prof. Yoon-Ha Jeong, the founder of NCNT and VP of Research, POSTECH. Then interviewer is Dr M. Meyyappan, one of NASA’s leading experts on nanotechnology and Chief Scientist for Exploration Technology at NASA Ames' Center for Nanotechnology. Dr Meyyappan is also co-author of Inorganic Nanowires: Applications, Properties, and Characterization, published by Taylor and Francis.

Q: Briefly describe Korea’s POSTECH (Pohang University of Science and Technology), for our NanoScienceWorks.org readers?

Yoon-Ha Jeong: Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH, http://www.postech.ac.kr) is located in Pohang in the southeastern part of S. Korea near Busan. It is a private university founded in 1986 by POSCO (www.posco.com), the second largest iron and steel company in the world today. We have about 3000 students (1300 undergraduate and 1700 graduate students) in various science and engineering programs.

In addition, POSTECH has several government and POSCO funded research centers including National Center for Nanomaterials Technology (NCNT, http://www.nano.or.kr), Pohang Accelerator Laboratory (PAL, http://pal.postech.ac.kr/), POSTECH Information Research Laboratories (PIRL, http://www.postech.ac.kr/pirl), Pohang Institute of Intelligent Robotics (PIRO, www.piro.re.kr), POSTECH BioTech Center (PBC, http://pbc.postech.ac.kr), Graduate Institute of Ferrous Technology (GIFT) and several others. We like to think of POSTECH as CALTECH of Korea. We are currently ranked 134th in the QS/The Times world university rankings. However, we are ranked 11th in the world in the # of citations/faculty category.

Q: Since it opened in May 2007, POSTECH’s National Center for Nanomaterials Technology (NCNT) has distinguished itself in many areas. Tell us about your NCNT and your latest nanotechnology research?

Yoon-Ha Jeong: Following the US NNI, the Korean Government started our own focused nanotechnology initiative which has been providing consistent research funding for individual and large group of investigators. We at POSTECH got funding from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) to establish NCNT. This is a world class facility which has a full 8” wafer silicon fab line, all the facilities to process III-V devices, extensive characterization facilities and everything one would need to conduct nano R&D. We have faculty from various science and engineering departments as members of NCNT. We have a strong industrial participation with several small companies incubated from and residing at NCNT. We have about 106 industrial sponsors and collaborators including Samsung, LG and POSCO.

Sample projects include III-V power devices, organic light emitting diodes and thin film transistors for displays, growth and characterization of CNTs, nanowires and quantum dots, CNT electronics, Si nanowire devices, sensor development, and LIGA process based NEMS.

The major focus of Korean Nano community is exploring the early commercialization of nanotechnology based materials and devices, and that is why the government has supported establishing the NCNT at POSTECH. So, the prime goal of NCNT is supporting the industry for commercial products development from materials to preproduction. As for the academia, NCNT helps more with basic research and analysis in devices, materials and technologies such as displays, electronics, memory and others.

Q: POSTECH was recently recognition by World Class University (WCU) Program of the Korean Government for scholarship and research on convergence of nano, bio and information technologies. Tell us about your noteworthy approach?

Yoon-Ha Jeong: POSTECH was selected out of a stiff competition to start a WCU program on IT-Convergence Engineering (ITCE, http://itce.postech.ac.kr) and the first class of graduate students started in September 2009. The Principal Investigator of the Founding Team and Head of the new Division of ITCE is Professor James Won-Ki Hong. The ITCE consists of 14 POSTECH faculty members from the EE and Computer Science and Engineering Departments, in addition to 7 Distinguished visiting faculty members from USA, Canada, France and Germany. The focus is on convergence of IT-BT-NT with U-Health and U-environment as two main themes. The ‘U’ stands for ubiquitous. For this purpose, the combined expertise from the domestic and our visiting faculty includes nanomaterials, nano devices and sensors, autonomics, communication, networking, and bioinformatics.

The ITCE students get full scholarship, opportunity to be taught and supervised by distinguished, world-renowned scholars and access to outstanding world class experimental facilities. We are currently recruiting world top quality graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to join this exciting new program. Those interested should visit the ITCE website (http://itce.postech.ac.kr).

One of the first focused project is a Bio-FET (field effect transistor) as a biosensor using silicon nanowires. The first application is for hepatitis C since our bio colleagues have an aptamer based probe for this target. Eventually, different types of biosensors, chemical sensors, lab-on-a-chip analysis and integration with signal processing chip will feed into the U-Health network development.

The U-Health network is already getting setup. A team headed by Professor Nazim Agoulmine of University of Evry in Paris and Professor Jamal Deen of McMaster University is currently setting up such a networked home (we call it a SmartHome) for elderly. We are hoping that our nano sensors combined with their advances in networking, communication and autonomics would make our U-Health approach highly effective.

Beyond these, we have a program on nanowire based phase change random access memory (NW-PCRAM). My group, along with Professor Jeong-Soo Lee, takes care of the nano aspects of the ITCE. And we have the distinction of Dr. Meyya Meyyappan as our partner in all these efforts. We also have graphene electronics and THz electronics programs being initiated.

Q: You must be excited with all this attention from government official and other nano researchers. How do you feel your POSTECH programs might change the landscape for nano research and commercialization?

Yoon-Ha Jeong: Even though Korea is very strong in semiconductor industry, the reticle cost of 45nm process or below is beyond what university professors can manage. Since NCNT capabilities can define devices below 32nm with e-beam lithograpgy, it can provide cost effective nanoscale device processing. Monolayer or multiple atomic layers can be formed with atomic layer deposition process, and together with litho tools, new experimental devices can be realized. That is the reason many professors are excited about the potential and eagerly joined the facility as users.

PAL (Pohang Accelerator Laboratory) is located right next to NCNT. Various beam lines are available for analysis and creation of new materials. All these possibilities of infrastructure utilization and collaborative technology development motivate the industry and academia to get involved in our NCNT.

The expectation from the government and industry, and from our own university management is very high. As I mentioned earlier, we have as many as 106 companies sponsoring and/or collaborating in our research programs including every big Korean company. One recent success story I can tell you about involves development of ultrasmall power devices and a company located inside NCNT we have worked with on this, has become a major Korean exporter in this domain.

For more on POSTECH's National Center for Nanomaterials Technology (NCNT).