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Nanomaterials celebrated at forum organized by South Korea’s Institute for Basic Science, Yonsei University, and ACS Publications

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
October 12, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 40


I’m in the very fortunate position that my job requires me to do a fair amount of travel, often to places where I have not been before. My most recent destination was Seoul, South Korea, a location that had been on my bucket list for some time.

The reason for my travel was to attend the first ACS Publications and IBS Forum, an event hosted and supported by Yonsei University and organized by Cindy Burrows of the University of Utah; Jinwoo Cheon of the Institute for Basic Science’s Center for Nanomedicine, based at Yonsei University; and Peidong Yang of the University of California, Berkeley.

The theme of the forum—“Nanomaterials for Energy and Life Sciences”—could not have been more topical or relevant to the research interests of the host country. South Korea is a global leader in scientific research, and much of its R&D spending is concentrated in technology and materials.

At the forum we heard presentations from world-leading scientists working at the forefront of nanomaterials chemistry.

In the energy session, Yang told attendees about his cyborgian designs for solar fuel production: hybrid systems that combine inorganic materials and biological catalysts. The session also featured the University of Alberta’s Jillian Buriak, who explained how her group is applying design-of-experiment principles and machine learning to optimize organic solar cell efficiency; Sungkyunkwan University’s Nam-Gyu Park, who reported improved photovoltaic performance of solid-state perovskite solar cells through the development of cost-effective materials and more efficient coating procedures; and National University of Singapore’s Loh Kian Ping, who reported on his work toward large-scale synthesis of covalent organic frameworks for applications such as lithium–carbon dioxide batteries.

In the bioscience session, Harvard University’s Joanna Aizenberg talked about how her group is taking inspiration from biological structures to design multifunctional, adaptive materials for photonic, catalytic (for example, air purification), and sensing (for example, toxin detection) applications. The University of Chicago’s Bozhi Tian, a member of C&EN’s Talented 12 class of 2017, also participated and reported on his work on the chemical dynamics of soft-hard interfaces.

In the nanomedicine session, Cheon delivered a talk titled “Design of Nanomaterials for Next Generation Imaging and Cell Manipulations,” in which he described using nanoparticles as a core tool for a variety of uses, including sensing, targeting, and signaling of cells in selective and efficient ways. Cheon’s work in this area involves developing nanomaterials in magnetic resonance imaging, including a new class of nano-MRI contrast agent based on magnetic nanoparticles with MRI signals that are 10 times as strong as those of conventional contrast agents.

The University of Toronto’s Warren Chan focused on biological barriers to nanoparticle delivery in cancer therapies. Scientists know that on their way to their target, therapeutic nanoparticles interact with tissues and organs, meaning that only a tiny proportion of the original load will reach its destination. As a consequence, it is unlikely that the concentration of nanoparticles at the site will be high enough for the therapy to be effective. Chan and his team are studying the mechanisms of nanoparticle transport in the body and how they affect delivery of the drug to the tumor site. They are also developing machine-learning-based methodology to predict nanoparticle delivery, with the goal of guiding nanoformulations for enhanced therapies.

To complement the forum, there were poster and networking sessions, and it was encouraging to see students engaging and participating. An excellent way to celebrate nanomaterials research.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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